A new study into a weight loss drug called lorcaserin has been carried out by researchers in the US. The study was looking at the effects of the drug on serious heart problems and the findings prove promising for bringing the drug to the European market.

What is Lorcaserin?

Lorcaserin is classed as a selective serotonin 2C receptor agonist. The medication works by triggering chemicals in the brain that cause us to feel full.

It has been proven to be effective at helping overweight and obese patients lose weight and has been available in the United States, under the name Belviq, since 2013. However, its cardiovascular safety profile was previously unknown.

How was the study carried out?

The study was carried out by the TIMI Study Group and sponsored by Eisai, a Japanese pharmaceutical company. It selected 12,000 overweight or obese patients (with a BMI over 27) with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease or multiple cardiovascular risk factors.

Patients were randomly assigned to one of two groups:

  • the lorcaserin group, which received a 10 mg dose of the drug twice daily
  • or the placebo group.  

What were the results?

Over the study period of 40 months, patients assigned to the lorcaserin test group were found to be more likely to lose 5-10% of their body weight than those in the placebo group.

Patients in the lorcaserin group also showed no higher risk of major cardiovascular events than those in the placebo group.

What do the findings tell us?

These results suggest that lorcaserin can be used to help aid weight loss without compromising cardiovascular health.

Why was the research carried out?

Obesity rates continue to increase across the globe. Being overweight is linked to numerous chronic health conditions including coronary heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes. Obesity can also lead to psychological problems such as depression and poor self esteem.

Eating a varied and well balanced diet combined with regular exercise are the foundations of many weight management schemes. However, some patients can benefit from the help provided by weight loss medication. There are already several weight loss treatments licensed in the UK, however, none of them are appetite suppressants like lorcaserin.

Is Lorcaserin available to buy in the UK?

Not at the moment.

The medication would still need to receive a European licence and approval from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in order for it to become available in the UK.

Treatments currently licensed for weight loss in the UK include Orlistat (which is marketed as a generic medicine, and as Xenical and Alli), Bupropion and Naltrexone (Mysimba) and Liraglutide (Saxenda). When taking prescription weight loss medication, the user will also need to ensure they’re following a motivational weight loss plan, incorporating a calorie controlled diet and regular physical activity.

People who have been unable to lose weight on their own should always speak to their doctor. A qualified healthcare professional can offer advice and, where required, prescription treatment that suits the individual.