Obesity study available in Tri-Cities

Investigating weight loss medication for FDA

BRISTOL, Tenn. - A new drug to battle obesity is being studied in the Tri-Cities to see if the prescription is safe for high-risk patients.

According to the Obesity Action Coalition, obesity affects about 93 million Americans; that is more than 30 percent of U.S. adults. That number is expected to grow to 120 million Americans within the next five years. "So many of the patients I treat have obesity-related illnesses. It is way more than half of my practice, way more," said Dr. Bernard Grunstra.

Grunstra is the lead investigator in the Light Study that is available in Bristol. It's a drug trial that is designed for the FDA to determine if a new weight loss medication by Orexigen Therapeutics is safe for high-risk patients. "That includes people with a higher risk for stroke, heart attack and complications linked to obesity," Grunstra said.

The four-year long study is looking for participants in the Tri-Cities including men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 50 who have a body mass index of 27 or higher, want to lose weight and have heart disease or Type-2 Diabetes. "Unfortunately we have plenty of people who fit the bill," he said.

According to doctors, losing five to 10 percent of your body weight can help your health, but many people can't do that with just diet and exercise. That's why these types of medicines are being studied. "There are people who are set up by genetics for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease. Those are the people we're trying to help," said Grunstra.

Katrina Nichols joined the Light Study a couple of weeks ago. The 50-year-old woman had a heart attack about seven years ago and says she still struggles with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. "I'm still battling the weight problem. You do real well after you're sick and then you kind of slip back into your old routine," she explained.

She's hoping the study, which includes the drug or a placebo pill and a weight management program to track calories; exercise and weight loss will help her live a healthier lifestyle. It could also possibly help her get off medications related to obesity-illnesses. "I'll have people lose as little as 15 to 20 pounds and be able to come off medicines for blood pressure and sugar problems. It's amazing," Grunstra said.

According to the CDC, people who have obesity, on average, spend $1,429 more for health care each year. Nichols estimates she spends about $150 per month on Cholesterol medication alone.

Grunstra said the FDA has already approved two obesity-related medications, Belviq and Qsymia.

To see if you qualify for the study, visit to be screened for trial participation.

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