Controversial weight loss drug Belviq causes concern

Brigham and Women's are studying the reason lesbians have a higher obesity rate than straight women. Photo credit: www.myhealthnewsdaily.com
Belviq is now available.
Credit: www.myhealthnewsdaily.com

Although short-term weight loss options – diet pills and lap band surgeries among them – seem abundant, the first Food and Drug Administration-approved long-term weight loss drug in nearly a decade is now available for U.S. patients.

Belviq was approved by the FDA last June and is marketed toward obese or overweight adults with at least one serious medical condition. In clinical tests, Belviq underwhelmed, with patients seeing minimal results. More concerning is the resounding opinions of doctors who question if the health risks outweigh the benefits of the drug.

We asked Dr. Joseph Colella, a robotic and bariatric surgeon specializing in weight loss and nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, about the risks involved with Belqiv and other weight-loss supplements.

What specific risks associated with Belviq are troubling to you?

For Belviq, the risks include depression, migraine headaches and memory difficulties. In total, the incidence of side effects may be as high as 30 percent. That’s awfully high given the very modest weight loss of 3-5 percent of total body weight that was achieved in early studies of Belviq. The pill also comes with a warning to stop the drug after three months if 5 percent weight loss is not achieved.

Belviq claims to have “mood-enhancing side effects” through the use of the ingredient lorcaserin hydrochloride. Can you explain exactly what effect it has on the body regarding weight loss?

The supposed mood enhancement touted here is as much a marketing ploy as anything and is absolutely not a reason to use this drug. As a matter of fact, certain antidepressant drugs that work in a similar fashion as Belviq actually can increase your appetite and cause weight gain. The point here is that this is very complicated chemistry and the serotonin receptors and concentrations in the central nervous system are not as well understood as we might like to think. If the appetite suppressant activity of Belviq was so fantastic, why are the weight loss results so poor? Something is still missing.

If consumers are going to use diet pills, where do you recommend they look for reliable information?

The best sources for information on diet pills are unbiased sources, but these are difficult to find. I recommend getting at least two opinions from trusted physicians and reading as much information as possible before proceeding.

Why have we yet to see a revolutionary diet pill or drug? Will we ever see one?

We will never see a diet pill that is ultimately effective until we extricate ourselves from our sugar and saturated fat addiction. These items taste too good and for most are irresistible even when appetite is suppressed. They make you sick and overweight at the same time.


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