New Obesity Drug Lorcaserin (Belviq) Approved Today

Posted: Jun 27 in Medical Weight Loss News, Weight Loss Medication by

After more than a decade with no new medications to treat obesity, today the FDA approved the obesity drug Lorcaserin, to be marketed later this year as Belviq. In clinical trials, the drug helped individuals lose an average of 5.7% of their total weight (12-13 pounds) and maintain this for the study duration (2 years).

This is a real land mark because up until now, the FDA has been reluctant to approve medications for long-term use. Although Orlistat (Xenical) is available and approved for long-term use (this is the last drug approved to treat obesity, and was approved in 1999), it is not particularly effective, has a high risk of side effects, and is relatively expensive, in my opinion, for the amount of weight individuals lose. Sibutramine (Meridia) was approved for long-term use as well, but was removed from the market in 2010 due to excessive heart risk in patients with pre-existing heart disease.

Lorcaserin is a unique drug that works through the brain’s seratonin receptors with a similar mechanism as Fenfluramine. You may recall that Fenfluramine was withdrawn from the market because it caused heart valve problems. Since those days, scientists have learned that there are several types of seratonin receptors, and were able to manufacture Lorcaserin so that it affects the brain’s receptors while not affecting the heart’s seratonin receptors. The end result: appetite control but no heart valve damage.

Arena pharmaceuticals, the makers of Lorcaserin, performed extensive heart safety surveillance of individuals treated with the drug to demonstrate its safety profile, performing initial and follow-up echocardiograms at regular intervals to look at the heart valves before and during treatment. Nonetheless, they will be required to perform extensive post-marketing studies for safety after the drug is released.

Side effects were minimal and included headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth and constipation. Like Phentermine and Tenuate, it is indicated for the treatment of obesity in patients with Obesity and a BMI >= 30, or >= 27 with obesity-related disease like diabetes. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

We expect another new obesity drug, Qnexa (a combination of Phentermine / Topiramate) to be approved by the FDA on July 17th. We will issue another article on this decision once it is released.

It can take some time for these medications to actually hit the shelves, but stay tuned! Finally, some new options for patients with Obesity desiring long-term treatment with medications approved without time limits, proven to be effective and safe!

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