Thursday, June 28, 2012

Will Belviq help US' 'war on obesity' ?

The battle of the bulge in the United States is getting more earnest with federal authorities now opening a new frontier in their fight against a burgeoning crisis.

The Food and Drug Administration has given its nod to Arena Pharmaceutical’s Belviq, generically known as lorcaserin.

It is the first new prescription drug for long-term weight loss approved in 13 years, after Roche’s Xenical in 1999.

Belviq ... new weapon against obesity
Belviq is meant for adults who are obese (with a body mass index of 30 or greater) or overweight (with a BMI of 27 or greater) and have at least one medical complication, like diabetes or high cholesterol.

Arena and its partner Eisai Inc. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey expect to launch the drug early next year.

Belviq acts on chemicals in the brain and reduces appetite thereby boosting feelings of satiety and fullness.

Doctors believe that diet and exercise are either not religiously adhered to, not producing the expected results or are not enough to treat obesity.

Obesity Society President Patrick O’Neil welcomes Belviq’s approval. He should – he was the lead researcher on several studies of the drug!

But will Belviq bear expected results? Consider the following:
  • Belviq was rejected in 2010 after scientists voiced concerns after the drug formed breast tumors in rats;
  • Clinical trials show Belviq only achieving modest weight loss – an average patient lost just 3 to 3.7 per cent of the starting body weight over a year;
  • Vivus Inc.’s Qnexa, on the other hand, is thought to lead to an average weight loss of 11 per cent – so why Belviq first?
  • Side effects of Belviq include depression, migraine and memory lapses;
  • FDA-approved Xenical is seldom prescribed today because of unpleasant digestive side effects and modest weight loss;
  • Analysts are also skeptical that Belviq will also go down the same road as other unpopular anti-obesity and diet pills.

The approval of Belviq comes close on the heels of a recommendation by the US Preventive Services Task Force that doctors should screen the weight and height for all patients to check for obesity.

The federal health advisory panel also suggests that patients considered obese should be referred to intensive diet and exercise programs, if necessary.

According to latest available statistics more than a third of adults in the United States are obese with the past couple of decades witnessing a dramatic rise in the obesity rate.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already taken up the cudgels by proposing to ban super-sized coals in restaurants, theatres and public places as part of a drive to fight obesity.

Desperate times call for desperate measures but one wonders if, instead of such radical steps, wouldn’t a greater emphasis on education and awareness about the issue bear better results?

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