If you went to college in the 60’s and 70’s you may remember the “munchies” or voracious appetite which sometimes accompanied marijuana smoking. Little did the pot heads of that day realize that medications in the future which block the munchies would help them shed the pounds that they would gain over the next 30 or so years.
This new medication, rimonabant (affectionately known at metabolism.com as Ramona), brand name Acomplia, is presently available in Europe and may soon be available in the United States. The company which produces this medication, Sanofi-Aventis, has been in lengthy negotiations with the FDA regarding gaining the critical approval required to bring Acomplia to market in the U.S. There has been much speculation about the reasons for the lengthy delay in gaining approval from the FDA. One possible reason is that although extensive clinical trials suggest that the new drug is safe and effective for weight loss, many experts are concerned about potential side-effects of rimonabant.
Studies show that about 30-40% of obese people taking ramonabant lost more than 5% of their body weight and 10-20% of subjects lost over 10% of their body weight above what they lost on diet alone. Because Ramona acts on the liver as well it had beneficial effects on triglycerides and other fats in the blood. Blood pressure reduction has also been observed with Ramona treatment.
Ramona works by blocking an important chemical pathway in the brain known as the endocannabinoid system. Scientists speculate that our body naturally manufactures substances resembling cannabis (marijuana, pot, reefer erc.), which interact with the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system not only participates in the control of appetite but is active in many areas of the body including the gastrointestinal tract, mood regulation, bone development, muscle control, blood pressure, adaptation to stress and the reproductive system. Several experts such as University of Colorado at Colorado Springs biology professor Dr. Robert Melamede have warned that the long term use of Ramona for weight loss could result in unwanted side-effects involving these other body systems. In fact, depression is listed as one of the side-effects that may limit Ramona’s tolerability occurring in about 3% of obese subjects in a weight loss study. Nausea was another important limiting side-effect.