Health Buzz: FDA Panel Votes Against Weight-Loss Drug

Eating-disorder treatment: a family affair; 5 eating-disorder signs in your child.

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FDA Panel Recommends Against Weight-Loss Drug Lorcaserin

For the third time this year, a Food and Drug Administration advisory group has given a weight-loss drug the thumbs-down. On Thursday, the committee voted against approving lorcaserin, a prescription obesity pill designed to block appetite signals in the brain, out of concern that its potential risks outweigh its benefit of modest weight loss. In clinical trials, patients lost about 5 percent of their body weight; side effects included depression and memory loss. Animal studies showed the drug was associated with tumors, though those findings have not been replicated in humans, Reuters reports. The FDA will decide the fate of lorcaserin later this year.

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  • Eating-Disorder Treatment: A Family Affair

    Harriet Brown once made a near science of packing the most calories possible into everything her daughter ate. A Häagen-Dazs coffee ice-cream milkshake made the way Kitty had always loved it crammed 690 calories into one small glass. That it took two hours of coaxing, pleading, and cajoling to make Kitty swallow it didn't matter. Long after the shake warmed to room temperature, Brown sat with Kitty, her voice soothing and straw in hand, until sip by sip, tear by tear, the milkshake was gone. Her anorexic daughter's life depended on it.

    Brown, author of Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle With Anorexia, nursed her 14-year-old daughter, who had all but stopped eating and had dropped to 71 pounds, more than 25 pounds below her healthy weight, back to physical and emotional health. She and her husband relied on an unconventional method that has been gaining traction. Named for the London hospital where it was devised in the 1980s specifically to treat children with eating disorders, "the Maudsley approach"—also called family-based therapy—emphasizes recovery over cause and care provided by parents, not by doctors. The first priority in the Maudsley program is to feed the child; examining the issues behind the child's disorder can wait.

    Several studies evaluating the program's effectiveness have shown a success rate five years after treatment of 70 to 95 percent, U.S. News's Hanna Dubansky writes. That's far superior to about 50 percent for standard therapy—inpatient care that addresses healthy eating and the psychological underpinnings of the eating disorder, followed by continued counseling after the child is discharged. Parents are mere bystanders, says Brown, told not to pressure their child to eat or, for that matter, not to talk about food at all to avoid becoming the "food police." Besides, they are in all likelihood part of the problem. "They're told to butt out," Brown writes. Conventional therapy holds that eating disorders are not about eating anyway, but about control. [Read more: Eating-Disorder Treatment: A Family Affair.]

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    • 5 Eating-Disorder Signs in Your Child

      You never talk about weight. You're careful never to mention "diet" in front of your daughter. You teach your son to do his best but never expect to be perfect. But even avoiding all the traps does not erase the possibility of an eating disorder. There is no single cause: It's a perfect storm of environmental, psychological, and biological factors that drive children as young as 8 to the edge of starvation and sometimes tragically beyond, U.S. News reports.

      The best way to protect your child is to be alert for telltale behavior and move quickly when it's spotted. Daniel Le Grange, director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of Chicago Medical Center, urges parents to follow their gut instincts. "Too often physicians tell parents that it may be just a phase, that they should wait and see what happens," says Le Grange, who likens this to an oncologist who ignores the earliest signs of cancer. "Parents are nine times out of 10 spot on in their thinking that something is amiss. The sooner you recognize and diagnose the disorder the better the chances of recovery," Le Grange says. [Read more: 5 Eating-Disorder Signs in Your Child.]