Weight-loss drugs generally work in one of two ways: they suppress your appetite so that you eat less, or they attempt to reduce the amount of fat that your body absorbs. Neither of these methods deal with the fat that you already have, but a new drug that targets those cells has shown some promising results in primate trials.
The drug is called Adipotide, and it works by selectively targeting the blood vessels which supply fat cells. Adipotide seeks out those blood vessels, binds to them, and tells them to kill themselves. Without a supply of blood, the fat cells allow themselves to be reabsorbed into the body and metabolized, which is what we all try to do with our excess fat cells anyway. Sounds great, but as with all experimental drugs, there are two big questions: does it work, and does it work safely?
Adipotide certainly does seems to work, at least on rhesus monkeys. Over four weeks of daily injections, a group of obese monkeys lost an average of 11% of their body weight and 27% of their abdominal fat. Their body mass index (BMI) decreased, and so did their waistlines. MRI imaging confirmed that the monkeys had a "substantial decrease" in the amount of fat in their bodies, and this fat-loss trend continued for three weeks after the daily injections were discontinued. Furthermore, when Adipotide was administered to non-obese monkeys, nothing happened, suggesting that the drug really does just target excess fat.
During the trials, the monkeys showed no signs of signs of nausea or food avoidance, and they remained bright and alert. As far as the researchers could tell, the principle side effects were in the kidneys, but in a predictable and reversible way.
This is all very promising — at least if you're a monkey. Most drugs like this tend to fail when they try to make the jump from mice to primates, which is a hurdle Adipotide has apparently overcome. The jump from primates to humans is a whole 'nother kettle of fish, but if it works out, you can feast on as many kettles of fish as you like, and then just lie back, take a pill, and watch the fat melt away.