Australia approves new drug to fight obesity

Australian health authorities have approved a new weight loss drug to help fight obesity.

The weight loss drug Contrave has been listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods and is intended to be used with a diet control and increased exercise, according to a media report.

Australian Researcher Michael Cowley, Head of the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute's Department of Physiology, developed the medication while working overseas after mapping key areas of the brain involved in the regulation of food intake.

Cowley said he hopes the extra medication on the market, which has been approved for use in the US since 2014, will help people realise there are effective medical treatments available.

That will also help break down inappropriate social stigma, he said.

"There is a sector of the medical community and a sector of the Australian political community who regard obesity as a moral failing," he was quoted by AAP news agency.

"Most of the rest of the world has acknowledged it as a disease and applies normally clinical judgement to treating diseases."

The pill affects the central nervous system, by both suppressing appetite and reducing food cravings and in clinical trials it has shown to help people lose on average five per cent of their body weight.

Cowley said while this may not sound like a lot, but it was enough to improve people's metabolic health and reduce rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and lipid disorders.

Contrave is not listed on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme - meaning the federal government is not subsidising it - and will cost those who use it about 230 dollars to 250 dollars per month.

The drug's side effects - established in clinical trials - include headache, constipation, dizziness, vomiting and dry mouth.