Have you ever heard of Belviq? This is the new brand of weapon in the eternal war against obesity that is being waged in apparently half of the world these days. Well, we say that it is “new”, but Belviq was officially approved by the Food and Drugs Administration for use in treatment of obese adults as far back as June 2012. You can read more about the study that won this approval, as well as its results, in this news article.
Six years sounds like a long time ago, right? Still, it is a relatively “young” presence in the world of medicine, and so there are still a lot of people who do not really know that much about it. We are here to fix this! After all, Belviq was the first prescription diet drug to win approval in thirteen long years, and this is still big news! So, keep reading to find out all the essential basics that you need to know about this new medicine!
So, what is Belviq actually and how does it work?
Belviq is the brand name (in other words, the label on the bottle) of a specific kind of drug that controls a person’s appetite. The actual active substance of the medicine, the thing that makes it work, is called Lorcaserin. It is produced by the company known as Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. which is located in San Diego, in California and has been around since 1997. You need to keep in mind, though, that lorcaserin does not make the excess weight go away on its own, but rather helps that process along. So how does it work once it gets into your body?
It works by affecting the brain receptors for serotonin. You have probably already heard of serotonin, the so-called “mood molecule” and “happy chemical”. It is cornerstone of the vast majority of anti-depressant drugs, for example. However, in addition to happiness, joy, and love, this chemical also triggers the feelings of satiety and satisfaction that we get after eating a delicious, hearty meal. Arena Pharmaceutical’s new medicine is designed to target only those serotonin receptors in the brain which deal with our appetite. Basically, it prolongs our enjoyment in food, so it takes us longer to feel a need for more yumminess – so we do not eat as often, so we avoid obesity.
Why was a new weight loss drug not approved for such a long time?
In short, because dieting products by default come with a whole host of safety problems and concerns. Our bodies have their own mechanisms of controlling weight, and they are very complicated. Fixing them when they go bonkers is hard.
Manipulating them up front is even harder. It even happens that a weight loss medicine has to be pulled from production because it increases risks of heart problems, or liver problems, or messes with the blood system (think cholesterol control).
Therefore, the FDA sets the bar for these products seriously high, and it consequently takes drug developers a lot longer to properly clear it.
Does this new kind of dieting pill actually have any effect?
Yes, it does, although like we wrote above, it only helps with the process of reducing your weight; it does not actually do your work for you. Like with most weight loss medication, to get the best results, you would need to eat a healthy diet, maintain an appropriate exercise program, and then the pill can actually have any noticeable effect.
Clinical trial data predicts that, with proper use of Belviq, you should lose about five percent of your starting weight in the first twelve weeks. It is recommended that, if you do not lose that much, you discontinue the medication. Keeping it up for longer will not make it more effective, so if it does not work for you in that initial twelve-week period, there will likely not be any meaningful results down the road. In that case, you should visit your dietician and revise your strategy.
Is anyone allowed to use it for weight loss?
To the disappointment of people looking for a quick fix, no, it is not meant for everyone who is looking to lose some weight. Following the guidelines put forth in the FDA’s approval for Belviq, this medicine can only be used by a specific group of people.
In order to be prescribed the lorcaserin pill, a person needs to be either overweight (meaning that their Body Mass Index is rated at 27 or higher), or obese (with their BMI being 30 or above that), an in addition, they have to have been diagnosed with at least one health condition that is related to weight.
These include a high cholesterol level, high blood pressure, or Type 2 diabetes, as the most common examples. There has been some recently published information about lorcaserin medication actually helping with Type 2 diabetes in particular. You can read some more about that at this link: https://www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes/treatment/lorcaserin-may-help-delay-manage-type-2-diabetes-study-finds/
What are the side effects of the Belviq pill?
As with most other medicinal products out there, there are a handful of possible negative experiences that you should be aware of. Remember that Belviq is prescribed to overweight or obese people with weight-related health conditions, and in particular to people with Type 2 diabetes.
In a person who does not have any diabetes problems, common side effects include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, some constipation, and a dry mouth. In a person who does have diabetes, the side effects are a little different. The fatigue and headaches stay around, but the others are replaced with coughing, back pain, and low blood sugar levels.
Since Belviq is prescribed at low doses, the people taking it do not need to be monitored for heart damage, which was unfortunately a huge problem in 1997. That year, another serotonin-based weight loss drug, called Fenfluramine, was removed from the market due to concerns over causing defects of the heart valves in people.