The drug Vyvanse, which is being aggressively marketed as a treatment for binge eating, is classified by the federal government as having a high potential for abuse, The New York Times reports.
The drug is a type of amphetamine. Retired tennis player Monica Seles, a paid spokeswoman for the company that makes Vyvanse, has been on a media tour to promote the drug. Shire, which makes Vyvanse, received approval late last month to market the drug for binge-eating disorder.
Vyvanse was already approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Federal officials have cited the company for inappropriately marketing Vyvanse and other ADHD drugs.
Amphetamines suppress appetite. For decades, they were widely abused as a treatment for obesity, some drug safety experts point out.
"Once a pharmaceutical company gets permission to advertise for it, it can often become quite widely prescribed, and even tend to be overprescribed, and that's a worry," said Dr. B. Timothy Walsh, professor of psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University. He said that Vyvanse shows promise, but other treatments such as talk therapy have been more widely studied.
Some experts said a Shire website, BingeEatingDisorder.com, does not mention Vyvanse but explains how patients can talk to their doctor about binge-eating disorder.
The site also tells patients "don't give up" if their doctor does not address their concerns. Some experts in prescription drug abuse said they are troubled by the website, because it appears to coach patients in how to receive a diagnosis for binge-eating disorder. It also explains how to shop for a new doctor if they are not successful, the article notes.