Pill that releases balloon in stomach latest weight loss treatment

Kimberly Gillan
Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Forget restrictive diets or surgery – a new weight loss treatment uses a pill the size of a vitamin capsule to releases a balloon in the stomach to make people feel fuller.

Once in the stomach, the Obalon cap, which has launched in the UK, dissolves and the balloon expands to the size of an apple, leaving less room in the stomach for food.

Patients can receive a second balloon after 30 days and a third after another 30, before they are removed three months later.

Clinical trials in the US and UK have found the Obalon, which is only recommended for people who are classified as obese, leads to an average of 7.7kg weight loss over 12 weeks.

The treatment costs $5600 and seven percent of patients experienced side effects, such as cramps, reflux and vomiting, but most symptoms subsided after one day.

Professor Matthew Carmody, a senior lecturer in general surgery at the University of Queensland, told ninemsn that the Obalon is unlikely to be offered in Australia because similar products have been withdrawn from the market in the past due to their complication rate.

"The thing pushing gastric balloons is that they are not put in with an operation," he said.

"It's a convenient option, but it's not a terribly powerful solution. The weight loss is fairly modest and it is not covered by Medicare so patients have to foot the bill."

Professor Carmody said surgical options, such as gastric banding, gastric sleeve or gastric bypass, are effective long-term solutions.

"Overall, when people do the Biggest Loser-style makeover, only about one in 20 will maintain that weight loss in a year," he said.

"For long-term risk reduction of things like heart attacks and strokes and complications with diabetes, the surgical solutions have the best track record by a long way.

Paul O'Brien, a Monash University emeritus professor of surgery, told ninemsn that he also has reservations about the Obalon, due to its short-term effectiveness.

"People can go on a diet for three months and have very good weight loss but they put the weight back on. We know anything short term will fail," he said.

"Getting gastric band surgery is only a day procedure, so why would you go for something short term and expensive when you have an option that is safe and has a good effect for 15 or more years?"

Professor O'Brien said further clinical trials would need to be conducted before Obaron became a viable option in Australia.

"When we did clinical trials on a similar product in the 1980s, we found it didn't work – the placebo group, who were told they had a balloon in their stomach but didn't, did just as well as the treatment group," Professor O'Brien said.

Dr Paul Burton, a researcher at the Monash University Centre for Obesity Research and Education, urged people with weight problems to seek expert advice.

"Patients should speak in detail to their regular GP in the first instance as well as looking at comprehensive lifestyle change," he said.

"If you are seeking a surgical solution, the Obesity Surgeons Society of Australia and New Zealand is a good place to start."

Source: The Independent Author: Kimberly Gillan, Approving editor: Rory Kinsella


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