'Miracle Pill' May Help Trim Fat

"Anyone who is slim says 'it can't be that difficult; you've only got to diet,'" Marie Smith says.

Smith figures she's 50 pounds overweight, CBS News correspondent Richard Roth reports. Does this sound familiar?

"My daughter is not very encouraging. She's 'For God's sake, mother, lose weight. You look awful,'" Smith says.

But there's a brand-new pill Smith has just started taking. It's prescribed by her doctor.

"This is my miracle pill," she says. "I'm not going to be fat and 60. I want to be slim and 60."

The pill is called Rimonabant and is sold in Europe under the brand name Acomplia. It's no wonder drug, according to Smith's doctor, but it may be a wonderful one.

"The most exciting thing is not only that it induces weight loss, but over and above the effect induced by weight loss, you get more effect on the cholesterol, on the sugar, on the other risk factors that make obesity such a risky condition in the first place," says Dr. David Haslam.

The fact is, no matter what you may soon be hearing about a remarkable new obesity drug, you still can't make up for snacking or overeating just by taking a pill. But Rimonabant, along with diet and exercise, shows promise in a new class of drugs — medicine that targets the same biochemistry affected by a well-known non-prescription drug: marijuana.

That's the reason it's been nicknamed "a pill to fight the munchies." Rimonabant turns off the same switches inside the body that marijuana turns on. This may explain reported side effects that are just the opposite of feeling mellow.

"You're going to be that much less chilled. You're going to be a bit more uptight," Dr. Simon Coppack says. "You're going to be a bit more anxious. You may even get depressed."

The weight loss is not dramatic, and the long-term effects of Rimonabant, which a patient may have to take for years — even for life — aren't known.

But none of that worries Marie Smith. She just wants her old self back.

"Anything to help me lose the weight, because inside this little short lady is a slim one desperate to get out," Smith says.

And in her mind, she says, this pill is going to work.

  • Melissa McNamara

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