My father-in-law has a saying that I absolutely love: “Even a blind pig finds an acorn sometimes.” To me, this expression sums up the drug called lorcaserin and its apparent proven ability to help people lose weight. I mean really—how many ads have we seen over the years for diet drugs that turned out to be bogus? And how many people spent their hard-earned money on these pills, for nothing? But in the case of lorcaserin, it seems like it may be the real deal. And as a major bonus, studies are showing that it’s even free of dangerous side effects.
So what exactly is lorcaserin and what are some of the studies that proved its efficacy?
Lorcaserin works on the serotonin receptor, which is found in the part of the brain that lets us know when we are hungry or full. Remember fen-phen, the hot diet drug of the 1990s? It worked on the serotonin receptor too, only with the unfortunate side effect of also causing some pretty serious heart valve damage. According to lorcaserin’s manufacturer, the new drug does not have any effect on the heart.
Of course, the manufacturer is probably going to make its new uber drug sound as fabulous as possible, so with all due respect to Arena Pharmaceuticals, that makes lorcaserin, it’s important to also find a more neutral source to talk about its safety. Obesity researcher Arne Astrup, MD, head of the department of nutrition at the University of Copenhagen, wrote that that lorcaserin appears to have a slightly better safety record than Meridia and Xenical, two other weight-loss drugs. In an interview with WebMD, Astrup said “this drug seems to be extremely safe, with almost no side effects. The flip side of the coin is that the weight loss produced was not dramatic. But we know that even a 5 percent weight loss, which many patients achieved with this drug in combination with diet, can lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.”
Okay, so lorcaserin does seem to be safe, at least as far as diet pills go. Now let’s address Astrup’s other comment about lorcaserin not leading to a huge weight loss. A study of lorcaserin that involved 3,200 obese people found that about half of the dieters who took it for a year lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, compared to 20 percent of the subjects who took a placebo. But about one in five lorcaserin users lost 10 percent or more in that same time frame. People who stayed on lorcaserin for two years were able to maintain their weight loss better than the folks who started taking a placebo after one year.
So overall, it sounds like lorcaserin does what it says it will do—it helps people lose weight. Not a huge amount; not the “drop 30 pounds in 3 minutes!” claims it seems some drugs are telling us. But it does seem to work. To have a drug that helps people fight their battle of the bulge without causing nasty side effects to the heart sounds plenty promising.
What do you think? Are you going to give lorcaserin a try? Or are you still unsure about trying any medication to lose weight?