Consumer Reports: Contrave weight loss pill comes with risks

You may have seen the television commercials for the prescription weight-loss pill Contrave.

Contrave is the combination of two older drugs – the antidepressant bupropion and the addiction-treatment drug naltrexone. Its ads say the drug works on the brain to reduce hunger and control cravings. The FDA approved Contrave is for obese people or who are overweight with a body mass index of 27 or higher AND who also suffer from serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes.

The commercial cites studies in which patients who took Contrave along with diet and exercise lost approximately 2 to 4 times more weight than those who did diet and exercise alone. However, a Consumer Reports analysis of the 3 clinical trials used to gain FDA approval of the drug, shows the drug works but the amount of additional weight loss is small and could pose serious health risks.

Contrave can cause anxiety, insomnia and headaches. But also serious health problems, such as liver damage, seizures, increased blood pressure and possible heart risks. The people who took it up to 56 weeks lost only five to nine pounds more on average than those who took a placebo.

Consumer Reports advises to speak with your doctor about the risks and different weight-loss options. Consumer Reports health experts say it’s best to lose weight the safer, proven way, by eating less and exercising.

If you’ve been unable to lose weight on your own, ask your doctor about intensive behavioral programs that have at least 12 sessions a year and include multiple strategies to help you switch to a healthier diet and increase physical activity.