The world's media has been buzzing with the news of a new wonder drug that combats obesity. The drug rimonabant - marketed in the US as Acomplia - is the ultimate magic bullet. Its acts by 'switching off' that part of the brain that controls cravings so, in theory, it could also be used to stop all sorts of bad habits other than overeating, such as excessive drinking or cigarette-smoking.
The results are impressive. A study involving 3000 patients in the US and Canada found that most of them lost weight and kept it off for two years when they took rimonabant. In all, 60 per cent of those given a high dose (20 mg) of rimonabant lost more than 5 per cent of their body weight, and a third lost more than 10 per cent of their body weight. That amounts to a weight loss of 19 lb compared with 5.1 lb among those taking a placebo. The study also showed that rimonabant can shrink waistlines. Those taking the high dose lost 3 inches from around their waist compared with 1.9 inches among those taking a low dose (5 mg) and 1.5 inches for those in the placebo group.
But here's the rub - when patients stopped taking the drug after the two-year study, they put back all the weight they had lost.
Side-effects included nausea, but this was usually short-lived.