Weight-loss drug seems safe for heart, study finds

Ben Davidson
August 29, 2018

It can stimulate the brain into feeling full and prevent overeating.

A study in 12,000 people found that after three years, heart problems were no more common among Belviq users than among those taking dummy pills. It is the first weight-loss drug considered safe for heart health in long-term use.

"I think there will be several holy grails, but this is a holy grail and one which has been certainly at the back of the mind of a lot of specialists for a long time".

"We have been able to demonstrate for the first time in a rigorous, randomised way that this weight-loss drug does what it is meant to do - it helps people lose weight - without causing an increase in adverse cardiovascular events", said Dr Bohula.

Appetite suppressants are not new.

Lorcaserin has been available in the USA for several years under the name Belviq, but it has yet to be approved for use in Europe.

"But all of the other things apply - lifestyle change has got to be root and branch part of this".

Over a median follow-up of more than three years, the research showed no statistical difference in the rate of major heart problems between patients who took Belviq (6.1 percent) and those who took the placebo (6.2 percent).

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a consultant cardiologist with the NHS, questioned the significance of the findings - telling Sky News: "We should be highly sceptical of drug company sponsored trial on a diet pill for weight loss".

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Professor Jason Halford, an obesity expert at the University of Liverpool, told the Daily Telegraph that the drug's availability in the United Kingdom depends on whether it is approved by NHS regulators. We have a massive great gap between lifestyle modification and surgery.

"At the moment you either get support and advice, or you get to surgery - there is nothing in between".

While Fung admits that after four years of use, participants were healthier from a medical standpoint because they had decreased their risk for heart attack and stroke due to weight loss, he also points out that taking a drug of this nature is a lifelong financial commitment. The drug has been available in the U.S. since 2013 under the name Belviq.

"Patients and their doctors have been nervous about using drugs to treat obesity and for good reason. There's a history of these drugs having serious complications".

After 12 months, almost 40% of patients administered with lorcaserin (1986 of 5135) had weight loss of at least five percent.

"The higher weight-loss rates were achieved without an accompanying increase in the risk of cardiovascular events".

Results from the study were presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Munich, Germany, and revealed, on average, that patients lost 4.2kg while on lorcaserin compared with 1.4kg when taking a placebo.

Put another way, after one year, 39 percent of patients in the Belviq group had lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, compared with 17 percent of those in the placebo group, Bohula's group reported. The drug also cut the risk of diabetes by a fifth.

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