One in 45 Koreans was prescribed with an appetite suppressant for obesity treatment, and most of them were women, government data showed. By age group, those in their 30s used the drug the most.
A patient should not take an appetite curbing agent together with another, and the administration period is usually confined to four weeks, with three months at maximum. However, 10 percent of the patients received the prescription of more than two different weight-loss drugs, and 30 percent had the treatment for over four weeks.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety analyzed 4.97 million pieces of information on appetite suppressants prescribed from July 2018 to April 2019 and announced the results on Tuesday.
An appetite suppressant is a psychotropic medicine that acts on the appetite-sensitive brain, making it feel less hungry or fuller. Main ingredients include phentermine phendimetrazine, diethylpropion (amfepramone), mazindol, and lorcaserin.
Between July 2018 and April 2019, 1.16 million patients, or one in 45 Koreans, received prescriptions of appetite suppressants. The number accounts for 2.2 percent of the Korean population and 7.3 percent of the patients using narcotic drugs.
By gender, women took up 92.7 percent of the patients prescribed with appetite suppressants. By age group, people in their 30s accounted for 30.3 percent, taking up the largest share. By ingredient, 52.8 percent of the prescriptions were phentermine, followed by phendimetrazine and diethylpropion.
Most of the patients received the prescription at one (85.3 percent) clinic-level institution (95.2 percent) for the use of the appetite suppressant for less than four weeks (70.5 percent).
However, 10 percent received a prescription of more than two ingredients, and 30 percent of the prescriptions exceeded the four-week limit.
Long-term use of an appetite suppressant raises the risk of pulmonary arterial hypertension and severe heart disease. Thus, not only physicians but patients must take caution.
The food and drug safety ministry sent a letter to physicians to help them check if their prescriptions of appetite suppressants were excessive. The letter was the third one, after cautions against zolpidem (sleeping pill) and propofol (sleep inducer for anesthesia).
The latest letter contains information on the number of patients prescribed with appetite suppressants, the quantity, and primary ingredients, the status of prescriptions exceeding the maximum duration of treatment (three months), the status of prescriptions banned for people aged 16 and under, and the prescriptions of more than one appetite suppressant.
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