Nearly a year after its FDA approval, Lorcaserin, more commonly known as Belviq, will be available to patients through prescription. Lorcaserin was the first diet pill to be approved by the FDA since Orlistat’s (Alli) approval in 1999, but it was beat to the market by Qsymia. Qsymia has been plagued by weak sales since it first appeared on the market 10 months ago. Arena, the company that sells Belviq, is hoping that their product does considerably better.
Belviq is approved for those who are obese, as well as those who are overweight with other serious health risks like diabetes. It works by targeting the serotonin receptors, specifically the 2C receptor, in the brain to help the patient feel full. This receptor is in the area of the brain associated with appetite control and metabolism.
In the case studies of Lorcaserin, participants lost five percent or more of their body weight when taking Lorcaserin than those who were taking a placebo. Participants also saw improvements in their cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and insulin resistance. During the year-long trial, participants received one-on-one counseling about a reduced calorie diet and exercise.
As promising as Belviq sounds, it is too early to tell what will happen now that it is available for purchase. So far minimal side effects have been reported, but that may change as it becomes available to more people. Many diet pills have come along that promised similar, or better, results than Belviq that were pulled from shelves when harmful, and sometimes fatal, side effects surfaced.
One concern about Belviq is that just three years ago Lorcaserin was rejected by the FDA due to its effect on heart valves. The 2C receptor it targets is similar to the 2B receptor that was targeted by other weight loss drugs that were found to cause heart valve damage. Another worry about Belviq is how it will interact with other serotonin affecting drugs like antidepressants and some pain medications. A risk exits for Serotonin syndrome, which can result in seizures. Belviq may also have an effect on memory and attention levels.
Though Belviq was approved for sale by the FDA and is now available by prescription, anyone contemplating using it should consider the risks and rewards. Belviq is not a “miracle drug,” nor is it a permanent solution for weight loss. In fact, it is not recommended for extended use at this time, and those who have taken it for 12 weeks and not seen a five percent weight loss are advised to discontinue use. Belviq may jump start weight loss, but for lasting results the only solution is a healthy lifestyle.
Image via FDA