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Obesity drug bound for Australian shores

An experimental drug that could reduce weight and improve people's health including lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes could be on the market in Australia within four years.

Monash University physiologist Professor Michael Cowley invented and helped to develop the drug, Contrave, which has just undergone the final phase of testing in the United States.

"The results show more than a third of participants lost 10 per cent of their body weight over a year, and half lost more than five per cent of their body weight," Professor Cowley said.

"Weight loss isn't just about looking better. We know that even small amounts of weight loss will achieve health benefits, including lowered cholesterol, improved blood pressure and lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Professor Cowley is well known for his extensive research in the field of weight management and the latest drug, he explains, is a combination of existing medications that form a barrier to pathways in the brain that trigger appetite.

"Bupropion and Naltrexone are widely used to treat a range of addictions including smoking, alcohol and illegal drugs," Professor Cowley said. "Combining the two drugs blocks the pathways in the brain that trigger appetite."

In 2010 Contrave will be reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration for marketing authorisation before it is sent for approval here in Australia.

Professor Cowley presented the findings to an obesity forum held in Melbourne earlier this month. The forum also launched a new obesity consortium - a collection of researchers and organisations working together with the common goal to stem the tide of Victoria's obesity epidemic.

Professor Michael Cowley

Professor Michael Cowley