Just about everyone I know would love to lose weight the easy way: by taking a little pill! Yesterday, for the first time in more than a decade the FDA approved a new weight loss drug. It will be marketed under the name Belviq, or lorcaserin generically. Belviq is a twice-a-day pill that suppresses appetite and appears to affect metabolism by influencing levels of the brain chemical serotonin.
Before you get too excited, know that Belviq is no magic bullet. If you’ve been waiting for “The” miracle diet pill, you will have to wait a bit longer. In clinical trials, patients lost an average of just 3 to 3.7 percent of their starting body weight over a year. So for a 175 lb woman, that would equal just about 6 lbs lost in a year. About half of the patients lost at least 5 percent of their weight or more, which was enough to meet FDA standards for effectiveness. While any weight loss coming from a pill may sound compelling, there are definite side effects and clearly the overall results were minimal. The most common side effects include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, and constipation.
The FDA had rejected the drug in 2010 after a panel of experts advised the agency to give it a thumbs down because of safety concerns. Early studies indicated the drug might cause tumors in rats and possibly heart problems in people. Lorcaserin works in a way one part of the fen-phen diet pill combination that was pulled from the market in 1997 because it caused heart valve damage. However the company submitted new data aimed at alleviating those concerns and the same FDA panel endorsed approval in May. Still, some panel members expressed concerns about the drug’s safety, especially the heart problems, as have some consumer advocates.
Unfortunately at this stage FDA approved medications for weight loss have only modest results, at best. And there are definite risks. If you are seriously considering a weight loss drug, speak to your physician about the potential drawbacks and benefits. This latest drug is approved for use in adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater or adults with a BMI of 27 or greater who have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes.