A new wonder diet pill which switches off appetite without any side effects could be on sale within three years, researchers say.
In contrast to other drugs, which cause unpleasant side effects like upset stomach, serious psychiatric problems or damaged heart, the new drug, OAP-189, is seen as a simpler and safer option.
According to its inventor, Professor Stephen Bloom, a world-leading expert in obesity based at Imperial College London, the drug works by mimicking a gut hormone, oxyntomodulin that the body makes when it has had enough to eat.
Levels of this hormone also rise in people who have undergone gastric bypass operations, in which the stomach is made smaller and the digestive tract replumbed.
The surgery is effective but not without risk, and thus Professor Bloom looked for a way of mirroring its weight-loss benefits without an operation.
"I think we could mimic the dramatic weight loss achieved with stomach bypass surgery by giving people gut hormone-derived therapies. If you could take away hunger, food is not attractive," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
He began by giving three jabs of the hormone daily to overweight and obese volunteers and they lost an average of 5lb in four weeks. He then reformulated it into OAP-189, which can be given daily or weekly. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has bought the drug, which presently is in the early stages of human trials. Side effects of OAP-189 are predicted to be restricted to bouts of nausea.
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