Merck pulls marijuana-like obesity drug, taranabant, due to psychiatric side-effects.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

A while back there was news on a couple of pharmaceutical companies working on a new drug type that decreased appetite by blocking the same receptors in the brain that stimulate hunger after smoking marijuana.  Early trials showed promise, but later studies proved that, to take an dose of taranabant strong enough to decrease appetite effectively, the side-effects increased also.  The risk of increased anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts was too much so Merck has cancelled further testing and pulled the drug from FDA consideration.

I am disappointed in the failure, but commend Merck for doing the right thing.  It is an example of the time, expense and risk involved in trying to bring a new drug to market.  It is also a good example of a medical news story, highly touted and broadcast initially, with little follow-up.  Get the headlines from big media. Get the real scoop from JHMFD.

Can you think of other examples?

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