FDA Approves Obesity Drug Belviq

By Amir Khan on June 28, 2012 12:37 PM EDT

Obesity
Obese Americans may be getting some help in their weight battle (Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble)

Obese Americans may be getting some help in their weight battle. On Wednesday, the FDA approved the obesity drug Belviq (lorcaserin hydrochloride), in conjunction with a reduced calorie diet and exercise, to treat chronic weight problems.

Belviq works by activating a receptor in the brain that helps a person feel full while eating less. In clinical trials, 47 percent of patients without type 2 diabetes lost 5 percent of their body weight, compared to on 23 percent in the control group. For people with diabetes, 38 percent lost 5 percent of their body weight compared to only 16 percent in the control group.

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"The results overall are quite modest," Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist, told CNN. "But most experts agree that even a 5% weight loss has significant implications in terms of reducing the risk of obesity associated diseases including heart disease and diabetes."

An obese person's annual medical cost is $2,700 higher, in 2005 dollars, than a non-obese person, according to a recent study. In 2010 dollars, the last year data is available, that is equivalent to almost $3,000.

More than 35 percent of adults in the U.S. older than 20 are obese. In 1985, no state had an obesity rate higher than 14 percent. By 2010, no state had an obesity rate lower than 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The FDA will require Arena Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Belviq, to conduct long-term safety trials on the drug, including a trial to evaluate the drugs cardiovascular effects.

The most common side effects of Belviq i include headache, dizziness and fatigue. Diabetic patients reported low blood sugar and pain, according to the FDA.

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