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Metro doctor’s small study finds weight loss drug combo may be beneficial

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- Exercise more and eat less.  That's the way to lose weight. But many people want some extra help from medication.  A Liberty doctor who specializes in weight loss did a small study.  He had patients take two prescription weight loss drugs together.  The results are promising.

Belviq is a weight loss drug introduced in the U.S. last year.  It's had a cold reception because of cost and slim results -- up to five percent of body weight lost after a year.

Dr. Robert Huster of Liberty wondered if results would improve by adding another weight loss drug, phentermine.  It's an old drug that was part of the fen-phen combination back in the 1990s that resulted in heart valve damage and other problems.  But studies didn't implicate phentermine alone.

"No association with those health issues from phentermine alone," said Dr. Huster.

Recently, Dr. Huster had 30 obese patients try phentermine with a half-dose of Belviq.  Rochelle Allsbury, who works in his office, was one of them.

"My appetite was a lot less.  I didn't want food.  I could look at that piece of cake and go hmm, I don't need it," said Allsbury.

Dr. Huster says phentermine is an appetite suppressant while Belviq boosts the feeling of fullness. The 22 patients who finished the study lost an average of 28 pounds in 12 weeks.

"Our gold standard for weight loss is between 5 and 10 percent.  We got 12 percent, so we were very pleased with that," said Dr. Huster.

He presented findings at a meeting of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians.  He knows more research is needed directly comparing the combination to each drug individually, and also looking for possible side effects and risks of the two drugs combined.

"Ongoing observation of this has to occur," said Dr. Huster.

Allsbury says she had some dry mouth.  She's continued to take the Bel-phen combo and has lost 32 pounds in 15 months.
She says her weight loss has plateaued.

"I have lessened up on being strict about what I'm eating, but I still don't have the cravings.  I still don't have the hunger," she said.

Study participants were told to eat a modified low-carb diet and to exercise 30 minutes a day.  Dr. Huster says drugs won't help without that attention to diet and exercise.  Participants visited with the doctor once every two weeks.

The manufacturer of Belviq is also funding some research of the combination, and results are expected early next year.