In the next month, if you hear cheers coming from your local weight loss doctor (now known as an obesity medicine physician) and large smiles coming from the center’s patients, it is because we are preparing to have 2 NEW drugs approved for use in weight loss. It’s about time! The first new weight loss drug will be Lorcaserin and later next month if all goes well, Qnexa, a combination of phentermine and topiramate.
Lorcaserin, when and if approved for weight loss, will be brought to market by Arena Pharmaceuticals which is based in San Diego. The last obesity drug, xenical and its half-dose brother Alli were approved in 1999, over 13 years ago and are now both over the counter. The previous drug approved 2 years before that, was sibutramine (Meridia) and has been since taken off the market. With over two-thirds of our society now overweight and about 30 percent with obesity, new weight loss drugs have been long overdue!
Lorcaserin is a unique drug; it’s the first weight loss drug to work by specifically targeting 5-HT2c central nervous system (brain) serotonin receptors. These receptors when triggered promote fullness or satiety. Thought of potentially as a safe replacement for fenfluramine, Lorcaserin does not trigger serotonin receptors on heart valves, as did fenfluramine. During several extensive clinical weight loss trials, patients treated with Lorcaserin were watched quite closely for new heart valve damage and, as expected, no drug-induced valve damage was observed.
Once approved, Lorcaserin is expected to become available before the end of the summer. Medical obesity specialists, most of who are certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine, are already familiar with the Lorcaserin study results, and as we have been long awaiting new tools in the obesity epidemic are expected to rapidly start using Lorcaserin in their weight loss practices as a new tool for weight loss. These drugs cannot become available fast enough. Hip- Hip Hooray!