The Food and Drug Administration has just approved the third new prescription weight loss pill since 2012. 

The drug, called Contrave, targets one-third of all adults in the United States, who are considered obese. While the drug is meant to help obese people, it also offers benefits for overweight people, helping with problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. According to the FDA, the drug is meant to be part of a weight loss treatment that also involves diet and physical activity. 

"Obesity continues to be a major public health concern," Jean-Marc Guettier, director of the Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products in FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a press release. "When used as directed in combination with a healthy lifestyle that includes a reduced-calorie diet and exercise, Contrave provides another treatment option for chronic weight management for people who are obese or are overweight and have at least one weight-related health condition."

With such a large consumer base, the Contrave drug may produce massive sales for the pharmaceutical industry. The development comes after two similar drugs, Qsymia and Belviq, obtained approval from the agency. The two prescription weight loss pills gained FDA approval in 2012. 

In 2011, the FDA refused to give approval to Contrave due to signs that it raised the blood pressure and pulse rates of patients. The company that developed the medicine, Orexigen Therapeutics, commissioned a study that involved 9,000 people to show that the drug did not raise the risk of heart attacks for patients.  

The drugs represent a middle ground in weight loss treatment. It's not as drastic as having surgery, but it's also more effective than just going on a diet. It combines two drugs, naltrexone and bupropion, that have already been approved by the FDA. Naltrexone is used to treat dependence on alcohol and opiods. Bupropion, on the other hand, is for treating depression and seasonal affective disorder. It is also used as an aid for smoking cessation treatment. 

The drug was tested in multiple clinical trials that involved 4,500 obese and overweight patients. In addition to the medicine, the patients received "lifestyle modification," which meant increased physical activity and a reduced-calorie diet, along with caloric counseling. In these studies, the most common adverse reactions, about 5 percent, included nausea, constipation, headache, vomiting, dizziness, insomnia, dry mouth, and diarrhea. Its label also carries a caution about a risk of suicidal thoughts.

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