What is Belviq® (Lorcaserin) and how does it work?
Over the last couple of years the name Belviq® (lorcaserin HCl) has managed to make the headlines of not only of the scientific journals, but also of the mass media. This revolutionary product promised to do wonders. So what is Belviq and who should consider taking it?
For the last 2 decades, obesity has been a huge health problem all over the world. Only in United States, about a third of the population is in fact obese, while almost 60% of the population (including the obese) is overweight. There are many dangerous health problems related to obesity (such as diabetes, heart disease, apnea, high cholesterol, etc.) that can be a cause of the premature death. No wonder, researchers are doing the best they can to develop medication that would help fight the problem.
Belviq is a brand name of the drug, which is also known as Lorcaserin Hydrochloride (HCI). This medication comes in a blue round-shaped pill and is now used to assist obese patients on their weight loss journey. This drug was indeed quite a breakthrough, as it was the first weight-loss pill that was officially approved by the FDA in 13 years. The FDA has been quite harsh on any new weight-loss drugs and supplements, as most of them have very dangerous side effects.
It was first submitted for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in United States in the year 2009. But, because of many concerns about various side effects and whether it is efficient enough, the drug was not approved for use in the presented form. In 2012, however, the creators of the weight-loss pill, Arena Pharmaceuticals, have submitted several studies, proving the safety of Belviq for weight loss and limiting the recommendation to use the drug only for special cases and monitored treatment.
Given the suggested restrictions, Lorcaserin was finally approved and was available on the market just a year later. The restrictions, however, include: Belviq being a prescription drug, only recommended for people who are obese (meaning that the Body Mass Index (BMI) should be higher than 30); in certain cases for overweight people as well (but only when BMI higher than 27); for patients who, besides obesity, suffer from at least one excess-weight-related health problem, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes (Type-2) or high levels of LDL cholesterol in blood.
How does Lorcaserin work?
There are so many fake weight-loss pills that promise to magically burn fat or calories. Well, this is not how the real weight-loss medication works. So, be well-informed and don’t be fooled by all the ads screaming at us from the internet pages.
Instead of creating a drug that burns fat, researchers worked on the one that prevents accumulating it. Belviq diet pill is aimed not at the fat storage, but at the brain instead – it lowers the appetite and helps you eat less, therefore preventing weight gain and assisting weight loss.
You’ve heard of the chemical called serotonin. It is produced by human body and its main role is being a neurotransmitter, which means that it is responsible for relaying the signals between the neurons (aka. nerve cells) and regulating their intensity. Usually we associate serotonin with the mood and depression. That is because, indeed, serotonin can affect mood, memory, and social behavior, as well as sleep, sexual desire and even appetite.
The stabilized serotonin levels improve our mood and make us feel better, which is why people with depression sometimes take SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
The way Lorcaserin HCI works, however, is by stimulating the brain receptors for serotonin, which leads to easier appetite management. People who take Belviq simply have lower appetite and less food cravings. Think of it as an appetite suppressor in your brain. Also, feeling like they have eaten enough food, people satisfy the physical hunger much faster and therefore, eat smaller portions.
How effective is Belviq?
The estimated weight loss provided by the Lorcaserin HCI was reported to be 5 percent of the total body fat. While it might seem not much, for some people it can be lifesaving.
Belviq (Lorcaserin) was a subject of several big studies over the years, where its efficacy and safety were considered. There were three major studies, which included the placebo-controlled trials on people. These involved over 8 000 participants, who were overweight or obese. Some of the patients also had weight-related health conditions, like type-2 diabetes. The periods of the studies ranged from one year to two years of treatment with Belviq.
The participants had to introduce certain changes to their lifestyles, including exercise to their daily routines and changing the eating habits. All of the modifications were counseled and observed by doctors and health care experts. All the patients were offered the diet pill (Belviq), however, some of them did get placebo instead.
The results of the studies are very promising. Considering people who did not have diabetes during the period of the study, around 47% of them managed to lose around 5% of the body fat. Meanwhile, 23% of patients from the placebo-group succeeded in losing the same amount of weight.
Those participants who were suffering from the type-2 diabetes had slightly different results. Around 38 percent of participants have lost the promised 5%, while of those who were on placebo only 16 percent did the same. Furthermore, people with diabetes have benefited from taking Belviq and showed better glycemic control.
On average, the results state that one year of treatment with Lorcaserin (in comparison with placebo) provides about 3 to 3.7% weight loss.
However if after the first 12 weeks of taking belviq as prescribed, there is not enough of weight lost (less than 5% of total body weight), doctors and creators of the drug recommend discontinuing the treatment. If the drug did not show significant enough results at first, it will not help in future.
Although lorcaserin had the FDA approval, there are still ongoing studies on Belviq. One of them includes over 12 000 obese patients and has already started in 2014. It is planned to be finished by 2018.