Posted - July 16, 2012

Not-So-Magic Weight Loss Pill

Weight Loss Surgery More Effective than Weight Loss Drugs

Weight Loss Surgery More Effective than Weight Loss DrugsWhy the newly approved weight loss drug Belviq (lorcaserin) is no match for weight loss surgery in Dallas

With considerable hype surrounding the FDA’s approval of the first weight loss drug in over thirteen years, it’s only normal to be curious about Belviq (lorcaserin). However, don’t let curiosity get the best of you—despite what advocates are boasting, there’s no such thing as a magic pill for weight loss and Belviq is no exception. After its publicity subsides, this new drug will prove to be no match for weight loss surgery when long-term sustainable weight loss is the goal.

Recently proclaimed as the “pill to burn away the pounds” and the “answer to obesity,” weight loss surgery patients should know the benefits of this weight loss drug are short-lived at best. Arena Pharmaceuticals’ Belviq was approved for prescription use in obese adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater and overweight adults with a BMI of 27 or higher who have existing weight-related conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol.

Here’s what you need to know about Belviq:

Belviq works by controlling appetite. Specifically, the drug is said to activate brain receptors for serotonin—a neurotransmitter that triggers feelings of satiety (fullness) and satisfaction. Arena researchers claim that Belviq is designed to seek out only serotonin receptors that affect appetite.

Belviq’s effectiveness is limited. Arena submitted a clinical trial to the FDA that stated nearly half of dieters without type 2 diabetes who used Belviq lost at least 5 percent of their starting body weight (an average of 12 pounds amongst nearly 8,000 obese and overweight participants) over the course of one year. This works out to about three to five pounds lost for every 100 pounds a person weighs. For example, a 200-pound man may lose 6 to 10 pounds over the course of a year or two. Belviq may not be enough to help those who are morbidly obese lose enough weight to reduce their risks of obesity-related illnesses.

Belviq is also advised to be supplemented with a healthy diet and exercise program for best results. The drug’s label also recommends those who have not lost at least five percent of their body weight after 12 weeks should discontinue treatment.

Compared to the expected results of most weight loss surgeries, results with Belviq seem bleak.

  • Most gastric bypass patients lose 65 to 80 percent of excess weight over 18 months
  • Most gastric band patients lose 50 percent of excess weight over two years
  • Gastric sleeve patients lose 30 to 50 percent excess weight in the first 6 to 12 months
  • Duodenal switch patients lose 60 to 85 percent excess weight loss over 18 months

Belviq has several unpleasant side effects. Common side effects of Belviq in non-diabetic patients include fatigue, dizziness, constipation, nausea and headache. In patients with diabetes, Belviq’s side effects include low blood sugar, back pain, cough, fatigue and headache. What’s more, Belviq was previously rejected for approval in 2010 by the FDA due to its possibility for causing heart-valve defects in people and inciting tumor growth in animals, though additional data rescinded this risk as being irrelevant for humans.

Despite the FDA’s seal of approval, this new drug alone is not the only viable answer to weight loss. Though this drug may help some people to lose weight, it may not work for the majority of obese and overweight people who need to lose large amounts of weight to decrease their risks of life-threatening diseases. For some, weight loss surgery is still the best solution for long-term weight loss results. Ultimately the decision is yours, but your weight loss surgeon in Dallas can help you determine what’s best for you.