The prescription weight loss pill Qsymia is the first new diet drug to become approved by the FDA in more than a decade. But is it safe as well as effective? Revealing that Chaz Bono credits part of his 85-pound weight loss to the use of that drug, the Dec. 30 episode of "The Doctors" featured a debate about diet drugs.
Although "The Doctors" host Dr. Travis Stork emphasizes that Chaz's strict diet was the key factor in his weight loss, he noted that Chaz also turned to Qsymia. Dr. Travis played moderator in a heated debate about whether this diet drug is truly safe:
- On the "not safe" side, Dr. Sharon Orrange, a board-certified internist at USC, expressed concern that Qsymia contains ingredients that are dangerous to the heart.
- On the "safe" side, Dr. Stork quoted the FDA's statement that they have required the manufacturer to conduct trials prior to approving and to follow up to determine any adverse effects of long-term use.
WebMD recently interviewed Michelle Look, MD, of San Diego Sports Medicine and Family Health Center, who treated patients in the Qsymia clinical trials.
"We found that over the entire 52 weeks of the first trial, patients lost from 11% to 14% of their body weight," Look says.
"But the most dramatic effect we saw was in patients who were pre-diabetic and were prevented from converting to diabetes -- and in patients who had diabetes who not only had lower blood sugar but whom we could take off several of their diabetes medications."
However, known side effects include increased heart rate, suicidal thoughts or actions, and serious eye problems. Patients must get prescriptions from physicians.
Chaz sought help from Dr. Eva Cwynar, a well-known Beverly Hills endocrinologist and hormone specialist who focuses on weight loss and fatigue, according to the Daily Beast. She's the author of "The Fatigue Solution: Increase Your Energy in Eight Easy Steps."
Dr. Cwynar describes Qsymia as a helpful weight loss tool that makes the body feel full.
However, both she and Dr. Travis emphasize that diet needs to play a key role in weight loss.
Chaz chose a low carb diet modeled after the Paleo weight loss plan, he told Extra TV. He eliminates dairy and grains.
"I pretty much eat vegetables, meat, fruits, nuts," he elaborated.
In the final part of his slim-down success, Chaz returned to "The Doctors" to undergo a tummy tuck and liposuction, planned by "The Doctors" plastic surgeon, Dr. Andrew Ordon, who also discussed Chaz's use of diet drugs.
"He did have one of the newer approved diet pills that helped him along. It wasn't earth-shattering, but it really did help him through the tough times," said Dr. Ordon. But he emphasizes that Chaz deserves credit for his diet diligence.
"He really did do it on his own, the good old-fashioned way: diet and exercise. It's interesting that Chaz breaks down the numbers as 90 percent diet to 10 percent exercise. The dietary is so important, just making certain changes," he said.
And in an interview with Marilyn Beck, Dr. Ordon also reflected on the emotional aspect of Chaz's complete transformation.
As a transgendered leader in the LBGT community, Chaz faced "the extensive hormonal change and shift of adding male hormones and subtracting female hormones, so that all came into play," said Dr. Ordon.
"No doubt about it, there had to be an emotional component to it that we can only imagine."
Chaz has written about his transformation in his book "Transition: Becoming Who I Was Always Meant to Be."