Belviq gets the seal of approval from the FDA but
does that mean its safe?

What is Belviq?

Belviq-pillsBelviq, or lorcaserin hydrocholoride, is one of two weight-loss pills which have just been approved by the FDA for the treatment of chronic obesity.

Belviq and Qsymia, are the first two drugs to receive approval since 1999, signalling the acceptance that obesity is a serious disease and not just a vanity issue.

The obesity rate in the US has reached 35% and is projected to reach 42% by 2013 if something isn’t done to halt the problem.

Belviq is manufactured in Switzerland by Arena Pharmaceuticals, and will be marketed and distributed in the US. It is estimated that the drug will be available early in 2013, as it is currently in the final stages of scheduling by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Like Qsymia, the FDA has approved Belviq for use on the chronically obese in only two circumstances;

For those with a BMI of 30kg/m2 or;
Anyone with a BMI of 27kg/m2 and one weight related medical condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol.

These caveats reflect the potent nature of the drug, it’s potentially dangerous side effects, and its habit forming nature.

The manufacturers recommend that the drug should be accompanied by a healthy diet and exercise, and be used indefinitely for weight management. Belviq could offer those morbidly obese their first real opportunity to change their weight and lifestyle for the better, where previous options were either impossible or ineffective.

How Does Belviq Work?

Belviq contains lorcaserin hydrochloride which triggers an increase in serotonin to the brain, blocking appetite signals and making you feel fuller for longer so you consume smaller portions.

It has the same chemical reaction as hallucinogens such as LSD and ecstasy, but in a lower dose, so it will be a controlled substance due to the possibility of abuse as a hallucinogenic drug.

Many anti-depressants affect the reuptake of serotonin, keeping the brain receptors bathed in the chemical, but Arena Pharmaceuticals claim that Belviq only targets the serotonin receptors which affect appetite.

In clinical trials those taking Belviq experienced an average weight loss of 3-3.7% greater than the placebo group, and the manufacturers suggest that users will lose an average of 5% of their body weight. Arena Pharmaceuticals recommend that Belviq be stopped if a certain weight loss hasn’t been achieved in 12 weeks.

Potential Side Effects

Belviq is not recommended to be used by pregnant women, those suffering from valvular heart disease, and caution should be exercised by those taking drugs for depression, migraine, colds, moods, anxiety, psychotic or thought disorders, men with sickle cell anaemia, multiple myeloma, leukaemia and men with penile dysfunction.

In 2010 Belviq was rejected by the FDA because it was shown to produce tumours in mice, and although the FDA have now approved it on the basis that it will not cause tumours in humans, it has stipulated that Arena Pharmaceuticals conduct six post marketing studies after the launch, into the long term effects on heart health and stroke risk.

As a controlled substance medical practitioners will help establish the risk factors and suitability to ensure minimal complications when taking the drug. The potential side effects of taking Belviq are depression, migraine, memory lapses, nausea, fatigue, constipation, back pain and low blood sugar.

There are also some legitimate concerns over Belviq causing heart valve problems in humans, similar to the weight loss drug Fenfluramine (Fen-Fen) which was withdrawn from the market in the 1990s.

Is this drug going to be a good option?

obesity-society-logoIn USA Today, Patrick O’Neil, president of the Obesity Society said the drug’s approval:

‘Is a major step in the right direction…no one expects a single medication to work for everyone or to work without  nutritional and exercise changes…it is not a substitute for changes in eating, drinking and exercise patterns.’

As the manufacturer suggests, diet, exercise and lifestyle changes will be important in gaining maximum effectiveness from Belviq, and clearly any potential benefits will come at a cost.  In prescribing the drug the seriousness of establishing whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks will be a serious decision for medical practitioners to make.

More information about this drug can be found from the official website –


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