The FDA has just approved the first new weight loss drug in 13 years called Belviq (lorcaserin). This is essentially a “new and improved” version of Fen-Phen pulled by the FDA in 1997 due to heart valve problems. On the same day this week of the new drug’s approval, a recommendation against using diet drugs was published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Referring to currently marketed diet drugs, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that because of safety problems and a lack of data showing that people can keep weight off after discontinuing diet medications , the task force could not recommend that anyone use diet drugs.
Although an FDA advisory committee that reviewed lorcaserin for medical weight loss voted to approve it, it did so reluctantly, particularly because of widely shared concerns about evidence of heart valve damage in people using the drug in clinical trials. When these last heart valve-damaging diet drugs were banned in 1997, the knowledge of this life-threatening adverse effect was known only after approval. But in this case, the FDA has known before today’s approval of lorcaserin that it could damage heart valves. The agency’s own advisory committee concluded that “[t]here’s probably not sufficient data at this time to rule out a clinically meaningful increase in the risk for valvular heart disease.”
This is hardly an overwhelming endorsement for a new drug for medical weight loss by the FDA. A major medical journal and a government task force advocates against “diet pills” because of serious side effects and no one really keeps the weight off long term when using them. In complicated conditions like overweight and obesity the old mentality of “a pill for an ill” is too simple minded. Doctors and the general public know that the only long term solution is changes lifestyle in food choices that do not cause serious health issues like heart valve problems.
We help many people in our clinic with weight related medical problems like high cholesterol and triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure and body pains related to excess weight. Please see our success story video and the tab for FirstLine Therapy lifestyle program and see how safe medical weight loss can help you.