Lorcaserin | A 50-50 chance of losing a few pounds
Many people are looking for a pill to help them lose weight more easily -- and Lorcaserin might be one more option. (Photo Credit: Mr. Thomas/Flickr/CC BY-ND)

Developed by Arena Pharmaceuticals, the new diet drug Lorcaserin has been submitted to the FDA for approval. A two-year study of the drug has recently been completed, and researchers say that the weight loss drug is both safe and effective. The long-term safety of the drug has not yet been established, but in the race for the newest weight-loss drug, Lorcaserin may be the next one to make millions on the market, safe or not.

How Lorcaserin works

Drugmaker Arena Pharmaceuticals developed Lorcaserin as a serotonin receptor that suppresses appetite. The drug mimics the same hormone in the brain that the “fen” half of fen-phen targeted. By blocking the hormone, the drug blocks hunger. This is the same way anti-depressants, anti-convulsants and some anti-psychotic drugs work.

Losing weight with Lorcaserin

Very recently released, the latest study on the safety and effectiveness on Lorcaserin seems promising. About half of the people taking Lorcaserin in the study lost 5 percent or more of their body weight, while 20 percent of participants lost a full 10 percent or more of their body weight. Twenty percent of study participants who took the placebo lost weight.

The safety of Lorcaserin

The biggest concern about Lorcaserin’s safety is that it targets the same hormone as fen-phen. In 1997, fen-phen was taken off the market because it significantly weakened heart valves. In the recent safety study, this heart valve weakening was not found. However, fen-phen had also proved safe in initial studies. The hormones and receptors targeted by Lorcaserin also regulate mood and endocrine secretions.

Will Lorcaserin be approved?

A NDA — new drug application — has been filed with the FDA. Lorcaserin has been scheduled for review on Oct. 22, 2010. The FDA has the options of approving the drug for sale, requesting additional studies or denying it. Arena Pharmaceuticals is already estimating sales of $3 billion in sales for Lorcaserin by 2015, assuming the drug is approved on these short studies.

A dose of Lorcaserin reality

Lorcaserin is just one of many drugs either on or on its way to the market for weight loss. Meridia and Xenical are already on the market, while Qnexa and Contrave are also being considered for approval. All of these drugs are intended to help with the battle of the bulge. The questionable safety of some of these drugs, though, seems out of proportion to the eventual result for most people. Morbidly obese individuals can benefit greatly from help losing 5 to 10 percent of their body weight. However, for most individuals who will end up purchasing Lorcaserin, 10 percent of their body weight is a relatively small amount of weight — about 20 to 25 pounds. That amount of weight, for most people, could be lost with very small and simple changes to an everyday routine, such as walking an extra half-mile a day.

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