The weight-loss drug Belviq (lorcaserin) appears to help people shed pounds without adversely affecting the heart in those already at higher heart risk, new research shows.
Thats a first -- and a major hurdle overcome -- for medicines specifically aimed at weight loss, experts say. In the 1990s, the fen-phen combo of weight-loss meds (fenfluramine and phentermine) made headlines when use was tied to dangerous heart valve changes.
However, for now, after rigorous testing, we can report that [Belviq] is the first and only weight-loss agent to show long-term cardiovascular safety in a high-risk population, said study lead author Dr. Erin Bohula. Shes a cardiovascular medicine and critical care specialist at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston.
One obesity expert said the finding could boost use of the medication.
There was concern that certain weight-loss medications were not safe in patients at risk for heart disease, Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Belviq is in the same class of drugs,noted Roslin, who wasnt involved in the new trial. To gain acceptance, the drug would need to show that the same result would not occur. This study shows that there is no increase in cardiac complications with Belviq.
Bohulas team published their findings Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine, and the report was simultaneously presented at the European Society of Cardiologys annual meeting, in Munich.
The new trial was funded by Belviqs maker, the pharmaceutical company Eisai.
The study included 12,000 overweight or obese patients at risk for serious heart problems who took either Belviq or a dummy placebo pill. 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).
Along with counseling in better diet and exercise, patients who took Belviq lost an average of 9.3 pounds after one year, while those in the placebo group lost an average of 3 pounds.
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, Bohulas group reported. Even greater weight loss -- at least 10 percent of body weight or more -- was achieved by 15 percent of those taking Belviq compared to 5 percent of those in the placebo group.