Belviq: First Obesity Drug Approved This Century

Yesterday the FDA approved the first new weight loss drug to be available in the United States in 13 years. The drug, lorcaserin, is the first prescription obesity medication to have won the FDA’s blessing since it approved orlistat in 1999.  Made by San Diego-based Arena Pharmaceuticals, the drug will be sold under the brand name Belviq.  It has been approved for use in obese adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, or in overweight adults with a BMI of 27 or greater if they have an obesity-related health problem such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.  In a press release about the approval, Joe Nadglowski, the President and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) said:  “We are very pleased with the FDA’s decision. This is a serious medication for a serious issue. In order for us to fight this epidemic, the right patients must receive the right treatment from a qualified physician in combination with a diet and exercise program.”

As a condition of the approval, the drug maker will be required to conduct 6 postmarketing studies, including whether Belviq increases cardiovascular risks. The drug had initially been rejected by the FDA, along with two other obesity drugs, QNEXA, made by VIVUS and another made by Orexigen Therapeutics. The FDA is expected to make a decision about the approval of QNEXA next month and Orexigen is currently conducting a heart safety study of its drug as a condition of approval. With as much as a third of the adults in the United States obese, the lack of pharmaceutical aid has been frustrating to obesity experts. This is a great step forward, offering healthcare providers a new tool to help patients manage obesity.

Dr Mark Fusco of Lifeshape Advanced Bariatric Center of Florida told us, “In view of the severity of the obesity problem in this country, the availability of additional medications to help patients with this problem is definitely welcome. I also hope that now that primary physicians have some additional therapeutic options; it will prompt an earlier discussion with their patients suffering with the disease of obesity.” You can read more about the history of obesity drugs here.

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