LOS ANGELES (KABC) --Controlling cravings and suppressing hunger have been big challenges for people trying to lose weight. A prescription weight loss pill called Contrave claims it can help with both of those things.
But the experts at Consumer Reports warn that weight loss medication can come with some major health risks.
Contrave, which has been featured in commercials on TV, is the combination of two older drugs: the antidepressant bupropion and the addiction-treatment drug naltrexone.
Its ads state the drug works on the brain to reduce hunger and control cravings. The FDA approved Contrave is for obese people or people who are overweight with a body mass index of 27 or higher.
It's also approved for those who suffer from serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes.
The commercial cites studies in which patients who took Contrave along with diet and exercise lost approximately two to four times more weight than those who did diet and exercise alone.
However, a Consumer Reports analysis of the three clinical trials used to gain FDA approval of the drug showed that while the drug works, the amount of additional weight loss was small and could pose serious health risks.
"Contrave can cause anxiety, insomnia and headaches. But also serious health problems such as liver damage, seizures, increased blood pressure and possible heart risks," said Ginger Skinner, with Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports found that people who took Contrave up to 56 weeks lost only five to nine pounds more on average than those who took a placebo. Consumer Reports health experts said it's best to lose weight the safer, proven way, by eating less and exercising.
If you've been unable to lose weight on your own, ask your doctor about intensive behavioral programs that have at least 12 sessions a year and multiple strategies to help you eat better and exercise more.