Belviq (generic name- lorcaserin) is the new kid on the block when it comes to weight loss, and it’s the first weight loss drug to gain approval in 13 years. The drug works by activating a brain receptor that makes an individual feel full and, as with most weight loss drugs, is supposed to be used in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise.
The drug was hotly debated for quite some time and was initially rejected because of safety concerns involving the heart, but a panel convened this spring and decided it was ready for primetime. But you’re probably wondering how effective the drug is. Compared to placebo, subjects in three separate clinical trials lost, on average, 3-3.7% of their body weight. That means that an individual weighing 250 lbs. is expected to lose on the order of 7.5-9 lbs. after one year.
I have to admit, this is not overly impressive for something being heralded as the latest and greatest medical solution to stem the tide of obesity. And what about those safety risks that caused the initial rejection of the drug? Arena Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Belviq, will be required to conduct additional clinical trials to look at heart attack and stroke risk amongst other things, but it this enough? Is this really the answer we’ve been looking for?
There are other drugs that have produced marginal weight loss in the past that were subsequently pulled off the market due to significant health risks. Are we playing with fire here? And let’s be honest, despite the fact that long-term weight loss and subsequent weight maintenance can be a challenge for many, how difficult is it to drop less than 10 lbs? It gets frustrating when we keep looking for medical remedies to a problem that is largely lifestyle-influenced.
What do you think? Are these medications a nice adjunct to behavior change or do they do more harm than good?