However, researchers say lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise need to be included, too.
A drug designed to suppress your appetite appears to make a difference, most notably in people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
However, it may not be the easy fix that people who are overweight or obese are hoping for.
Lorcaserin, known by its brand name Belviq and manufactured by Arena Pharmaceuticals, demonstrated in a study involving 12,000 participants from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston that it reduced blood glucose levels and overall risk of kidney complications related to diabetes in patients struggling with their weight.
A key aspect of the three-year study, however, is the addition of lifestyle improvements around nutrition and exercise.
Lorcaserin works as a “selective serotonin 2C receptor agonist” that suppresses appetite and reduces overall physical hunger pangs, according to the research first published in The Lancet.
During the study, patients were divided into three groups (prediabetes, diabetes, and non-diabetic), and saw an average weight loss of 5 to 7 pounds
However, those with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes saw other benefits.
“Lorcaserin reduced the risk of diabetes by 19
The results also showed that lorcaserin significantly reduced the incidence of high blood glucose levels in
Lorcaserin was first approved for use in some types of obese and overweight people in 2012.
It was more widely approved in 2016 along with its extended release version.
It is not approved for use in most European countries.
“It works,” Marcey Robinson, MS, RD, CSSD, CDE, BC-ADM, and co-founder of Achieve Health & Performance, told Healthline. “But if you just take the pill without making other lifestyle changes, it probably won’t help you lose any weight at all.”
Robinson works regularly with people who are struggling to lose weight. Many of them have type 2 diabetes.
Drugs like Belviq are one of the many tools she might offer someone to help them reach their goals.
“It’s great because it is a weight-loss drug approved for long-term use,” said Robinson, “but most insurance companies will only cover it if the patient is enrolled in a weight-loss program that helps them focus on improving their overall lifestyle habits.”
Robinson emphasizes that this drug is not going to be effective if it’s used without other changes around nutrition and exercise.
“It is a weight-loss accelerator,” she said. “Hunger isn’t the only reason people eat. If you’re still overeating due to stress, boredom, or emotions, and you’re not exercising, you’re not going to lose weight.”
Instead, when combined with other changes, lorcaserin will help some people see results more quickly, which is an incentive to continue those new lifestyle habits.
Robinson, adds, however, that the pace of weight loss isn’t quick.
Realistically, it’s expected to help you lose an average of 12 pounds per year when combined with lifestyle changes.
Robinson knows most people want to lose that amount within a few months and are easily frustrated when that doesn’t happen.
“I do like to prescribe it for my patients,” she said, “but I always ask them: ‘Are you
Robinson has actually seen patients gain weight while taking the drug because they might think it will compensate for eating extra calories.
It doesn’t help your body burn extra calories. It simply helps to reduce your appetite.
It’s also important to take it as prescribed.
“The original short-acting version of Belviq was supposed to be taken twice a day, but if a patient missed that second dose, they weren’t going to get the benefits for the second half of the day,” explains Robinson.
The 24-hour extended release version approved in 2016 addresses that issue.
“In the end,” says Robinson, “it just takes the edge off your appetite for food. If you eat through it, it won’t work. These drugs are never the miracle pills we want them to be, especially if you’re looking at patients with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, because you still have to pay attention to other things, like nutrition and exercise.”
Like any weight-loss drug, lorcaserin is only
While recent research shows the drug can help prevent prediabetes from developing further into type 2 diabetes, the same effort around your lifestyle habits will be critical whether or not you’re taking lorcaserin.
Before discussing whether this drug might be right for you, ask yourself how committed you are to losing weight.