New obesity treatment

Patients may soon be able to avoid obesity surgery in their fight to lose weight, as an existing drug has been found to help with weight loss.

Dr Nir Barak of the Rabin Medical Centre in Tel Aviv noticed that Betahistine, which has been used to treat vertigo for a number of years, also helps people to lose weight rapidly.

A trial resulted in 20 volunteers losing around a stone a month for three months, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Dr Ian Campbell, a spokesman for the charity Weight Concern, told the paper that the potential for a new drug was "smashing news".

"Surgery is very expensive and if another option can be found that is inexpensive and works then we welcome it," he commented.

The drug is reported to affect a part of the brain known to be a histamine receptor, which signals to the stomach to take in less food, and Dr Barak said that although the exact mechanism is not yet known, they know "for sure" that it works.

The treatment could be available for patients as soon as 2009 as the drug is already on the market and is known to be safe.

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