Is a new weight-loss drug really all that new (or worth it)?

According to the FDA, there’s a new drug available for weight loss. It’s called Contrave and, really, it’s not all that new. It’s really a repackaging of two (2) drugs: 1) Naltrexone; and, 2) Bupropion that have been combined into one pill. The idea, I believe, is that Contrave works by suppressing appetite and was shown twice as effective as a placebo in reducing a minimum of five percent (5%) of participants’ body weight over the clinical trial period.

Now, Naltrexone is used, primarily, to treat opiate dependence. It works by antagonizing opiod receptors in the brain and has been recently shown to aid in the treatment of alcohol dependence. Bupropion is an antidepressant that works by suppressing the reabsorption of dopamine and norepinephrine. From what I can gather by the mechanics of these two (2) drugs is that, by altering a person’s “brain soup,” the person is “tricked” into thinking that he or she isn’t hungry.

Although the Contrave is approved for weight loss, the clinical trials that established its efficacy also prescribed both a reduced calorie diet and an exercise program. Also, Contrave is indicated for people with a BMI > 27 or have at least one weight-related ailment (type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.).   Therefore, those who qualify for Contrave treatment must also adhere with a diet and exercise program; however, that diet and exercise program is twice as effective with Contrave as it would be without, according to the clinical trail data.

The thing is, both Naltrexone and Bupropion have their side effects (liver damage and increased thoughts of suicide) and could also impact other aspects of mood and personality. While obesity is a public health concern, I would advise people that, if they’re taking Contrave, that they are basically taking Narcan and Wellbutrin (the brand names for Naltrexone and Bupropion). Really, if someone with a BMI > 27 is willing to commit to a diet and exercise program, I would recommend that he or she does that without Contrave; really, the risks of taking an antidepressant are well-documented.

Big Pharma is always looking for ways to repackage their drugs such that they can be used in other markets for which they were originally intended. Contrave seems like just another product off of which drug companies can make even more money. They’re like large-scale and acceptable drug pushers reaching out to vulnerable and desperate people. Really, they’re not all that different from street-corner pushers.

If you’d like to read the press release, click here.

Feel free to download the  Contrave Clinical Summary



  1. You hit the nail on the head for this drug: “Big Pharma is always looking for ways to repackage their drugs…”
    Unfortunately, many people look for the ‘easy’ way and believe the hype about the weight loss. For many people, they don’t eat when they’re ‘hungry’ for food, it’s usually a hunger for something else. Using this drug has a lot of downsides.Thanks for a great article.


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