Do you want to hallucinate, increase your cancer risk and lose 13 pounds? Try Belviq!
As of today, doctors can start writing prescriptions for Belviq (lorcaserin hydrochloride), an “obesity drug” (aka weight-loss aid) approved by the FDA last June. The drug—which mimics neurochemical serotonin—will be available to people with a body mass index of more than 30 or a BMI of 27+ and at least one metabolic condition.
It’s intended “as an addition to a reduced-calorie diet and exercise,” according to the FDA. This is good—because a magic bullet Belviq certainly is not.
In clinical trials, patients went from an average of 220 pounds to 207 pounds on Belviq. That’s a very modest weight reduction—an average of just 13 pounds.
Meanwhile, the potential side effects are daunting. Minor effects include headache, dizziness and fatigue, and some diabetic patients reported back pain, coughs, fatigue and low blood sugar. More disturbingly, taking lorcaserin was associated with increased cancer development in laboratory rats. Oh, and it may also make you hallucinate.
Initially the FDA rejected Belviq because it failed to live up to the agency’s effectiveness standards. Under 2007 guidelines, weight management products must help at least 35% of subjects lose at least 5% of their weight or work 5% better than placebo—and lorcaserin couldn’t even satisfy those criteria.
Ultimately, little is known about the long-term heart attack and stroke risks associated with this drug. It just doesn’t seem worth it for such modest results. I wish the FDA spent half as much time getting the ingredients that are making us fat out of our food supply as it does on approving untested and potentially fatal diet drugs. But you just can’t patent healthy eating and living in quite the same way as you can serotonergic appetite suppressants.