Entries in Belviq (2)


Wary Doctors Put the 'Wait' in Weight Loss Drugs

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After a 13-year dry spell, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two new drugs promising weight loss in a pill.  But will you be able to get a prescription for them?

The answer may depend on which doctor you see.

"I'll probably take a wait-and-see attitude myself," said Greg Anderson, an assistant professor of family medicine at the Mayo Clinic.  "The track record has not been particularly good for diet medications."

By contrast, Dr. Albert Levy, assistant professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said he has already been prescribing the same combination of drugs in the newest offering off-label for two years, a decision based on data from previous clinical trials.  He said almost all of his patients lost weight when they were given the medications.

"Once the patient has learned how to control the appetite and has lost a good amount of weight, she or he is stimulated to continue to lose weight without the medications," Levy said.

The two medications in question are Belviq and Qsymia.  Belviq, which contains a new medication called lorcaserin, was approved on June 27.  Qsymia, approved earlier this week, is a combination of two medications which had already been on the market, phentermine and topiramate.

In trials, patients taking Belviq lost about 5 percent of their total weight, while studies showed those on Qsymia lost about 10 percent of their weight.  The results aren't dramatic, but many are hopeful that these medications will help millions of Americans deal with obesity and related conditions like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

Investors are banking on these drugs too.  The U.S. weight loss market is estimated to be worth more than $60 billion per year.  Stocks for manufacturers of both drugs jumped at the news of the drugs' approval.  Analysts predict that Belviq and Qsymia sales can reach $1 billion annually.

But that's only if doctors prescribe them.  Ultimately, primary care physicians will be the gatekeepers who determine the fate of these medications.  Will they turn to a simpler remedy for obesity than urging their patients to eat right and exercise?  Or will they view these medications as more trouble than they're worth?

"I will predict that neither will be on the market in five years," said Dr. Lee Green, professor and chair of family medicine at the University of Alberta.  They really just don't do that much.  'Up to 10 percent weight loss' sounds great, until you look closely. That's when used by selected volunteer patients in carefully designed, closely monitored clinical trials. We'll be lucky to get half that in the real world."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FDA Approves Weight Loss Drug Belviq

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the weight loss drug Belviq for people who are overweight or obese and have one or more weight-related health problems, the agency announced today.

"Obesity threatens the overall well-being of patients and is a major public health concern," Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. "The approval of this drug, used responsibly in combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle, provides a treatment option for Americans who are obese or are overweight and have at least one weight-related comorbid condition."

The drug, made by Arena Pharmaceuticals, acts on a receptor in the brain to help people eat less and feel fuller, according to the FDA statement.

In clinical trials people who took Belviq were twice as likely to lose 5 percent or more of their weight than people who took a placebo. The drug was also linked to improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

In 2010, the FDA decided not to approve Belviq, citing concerns that the drug carried heart-valve risks and increased brain and breast tumor development in rats given seven times the recommended dose.

But new studies by Arena Pharmaceuticals found no increased risk of heart valve problems and only a small risk of cancer. And in May 2012, an FDA panel voted 18 to four to approve the drug, stating the benefits of Belviq outweigh the potential risks when used in a population of overweight and obese people.

Obesity is becoming an epidemic of massive proportions. According to the World Health Organization, by 2015 2.3 billion adults will be overweight, and more than 700 million will be obese. Obesity is associated with a host of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, asthma, cancers and strokes. Indeed, obesity, along with tobacco, is a leading cause of preventable death.

The main treatments for obesity are diet and exercise. If those interventions are not effective, then a person can consider medical therapy or bariatric surgery. However, bariatric surgery, though effective in leading to weight loss, is also a surgical procedure with serious risks.

The most common side effects of Belviq are headache, nausea and dizziness. And people taking Belviq were twice as likely to have neuropsychiatric and cognitive side effects.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio