Acomplia, an experimental weight loss drug, helps obese people with type 2 diabetes lose weight, reduce waist size, and even control blood sugar and blood fats.

Surprisingly, Acomplia's beneficial effect on blood sugars and fats went 57 percent beyond the benefit that would have been expected from weight loss alone. The drug, which affects the body's cannabinoid system, appears to reduce interrelated risks for heart and metabolic diseases.

The benefits seen were in addition to the benefits of standard, ongoing treatment with Glucophage or the family of diabetes drugs called sulfonylureas. Researcher André Scheen, MD, PhD, head of diabetes at the University of Liège in Belgium, reported the findings at this week's annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, held June 9-13 in Washington.

"These findings support the use of [Acomplia] for reducing cardiometabolic risk in patients with type 2 diabetes, and show that the benefits achieved are additional to those of background oral antidiabetic therapy," Scheen and colleagues wrote in their presentation abstract.

The findings come from an international clinical trial of more than 1,000 men and women with diabetes. The average study patient was 56 years old and obese, with a 43.3-inch waistline. At study entry, patients' average hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) level was 7.5 percent. HbA1c measures average blood sugar levels over the past three months. Normal HbA1c levels range from 4 percent to 6 percent.

Acomplia lowered HbA1c levels by 0.6 percent. That may not sound like much, but recent studies indicate every 1percent increase in HbA1c raises the risk of death -- from all causes -- by 24 percent for men and 28 percent for women.

By Daniel J. DeNoon, Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Scheen, A. X. Presentation to the Annual Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association, Washington, June 9-13, 2006; Abstract 560-P.Khaw, K.-T. Annals of Internal Medicine, Sept. 21, 2004; vol 141: pp 413-420.