Obesity: Current and potential pharmacotherapeutics and targets

Vidya Narayanaswami, Linda P. Dwoskin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations

Abstract

Obesity is a global epidemic that contributes to a number of health complications including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and neuropsychiatric disorders. Pharmacotherapeutic strategies to treat obesity are urgently needed. Research over the past two decades has increased substantially our knowledge of central and peripheral mechanisms underlying homeostatic energy balance. Homeostatic mechanisms involve multiple components including neuronal circuits, some originating in hypothalamus and brain stem, as well as peripherally-derived satiety, hunger and adiposity signals that modulate neural activity and regulate eating behavior. Dysregulation of one or more of these homeostatic components results in obesity. Coincident with obesity, reward mechanisms that regulate hedonic aspects of food intake override the homeostatic regulation of eating. In addition to functional interactions between homeostatic and reward systems in the regulation of food intake, homeostatic signals have the ability to alter vulnerability to drug abuse. Regarding the treatment of obesity, pharmacological monotherapies primarily focus on a single protein target. FDA-approved monotherapy options include phentermine (Adipex-P®), orlistat (Xenical®), lorcaserin (Belviq®) and liraglutide (Saxenda®). However, monotherapies have limited efficacy, in part due to the recruitment of alternate and counter-regulatory pathways. Consequently, a multi-target approach may provide greater benefit. Recently, two combination products have been approved by the FDA to treat obesity, including phentermine/topiramate (Qsymia®) and naltrexone/bupropion (Contrave®). The current review provides an overview of homeostatic and reward mechanisms that regulate energy balance, potential therapeutic targets for obesity and current treatment options, including some candidate therapeutics in clinical development. Finally, challenges in anti-obesity drug development are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-147
Number of pages32
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
Volume170
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge support from NIH grants DA05312, HL73085, RR021954, UL1TR000117, UL1TR001998 and a Predoctoral Fellowship from the American Heart Association, AHA 715489B.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.

Keywords

  • Homeostasis
  • Obesity
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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