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New Weight Loss Drug Wins FDA Approval

Belviq is the first new weight loss drug to be approved in 13 years

HEALTH GOES STRONG
ROBYN FLIPSE

A new weight loss drug has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 1999, so their announcement this week was big news. As the news spread, it didn't seem to matter whether someone had 5 pounds to lose or 50, if this drug could make it easier, it was welcomed.

Of course, we have been down this road before. Great optimism has heralded the release of every other weight loss drug the FDA has approved. Then just as quickly the excitement has faded once people read the small print.

You know the part I'm talking about, right? It's where it says you must eat fewer calories and exercise more to get the results? Even the most optimistic person around can figure out that if they did that, they wouldn't need a weight loss pill.

That doesn't mean there is no reason to pay attention to this news. No one treatment for obesity will ever be right for everyone. And maybe, just maybe, this new pill will be a winner for you.

What We Know About the New Weight Loss Drug

  • It was approved by the FDA based on the results of studies involving nearly 8000 obese and overweight people, with and without type 2 diabetes, treated for 52-104 weeks
  • It has the brand name is Bleviq and generic name lorcaserin
  • It was discovered and developed by Arena Pharmaceuticals, based in Zofingen, Switzerland, with offices in San Diego, CA
  • It will be distributed by Eisai Co., Ltd., based in Tokyo, Japan with a branch in Woodcliff, NJ
  • It will not be covered by Medicare Part D, which excludes all obesity drugs
  • It may only be covered by Medicaid in the 10 states that pay for weight loss drugs
  • It's for people with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 or a BMI of 27 or higher if they have another weight-related health problem, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • It's not approved for pregnant women or children
  • The most common side effects are headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, constipation and low blood sugar in people with diabetes
  • It may have serious side effects for people taking certain drugs for depression or migraine

How the New Weight Loss Drug Works

  • It's taken twice a day for chronic weight maintenance
  • It works as an appetite suppressant by activating a receptor in the brain that helps you feel full after eating a smaller amount of food
  • It should be used while also eating a reduced-calorie diet and getting regular exercise (Bingo!)
  • It can result in weight loss of 5% to 10% after one year
  • It can lead to improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose as a result of the weight loss
  • It should be stopped if 5% of body weight is not lost after 12 weeks

What We Don't Know About the New Weight Loss Drug

  • When it will be available, but estimates are in 4-6 months
  • What it will cost
  • If private and group health insurance policies will cover it
  • How it will affect other medications you may be taking
  • If there are any long term risks

It is not a miracle pill. It cannot replace diet and exercise. It is a potential weight loss tool that may help some people with appetite control.