On June 27, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration submitted a press release for the approval of Belviq (lorcaserin hydrochloride); a drug administered for those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, or a BMI of 27 or greater with a weight related problem such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.

The FDA approved drug is to help manage weight problems and is to be used as a supplement in addition to a healthier diet and exercise.

“The approval of this drug, used responsibly in combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle, provides a treatment option for Americans who are obese or are overweight and have at least one weight-related comorbid condition.” – Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research

According to the FDA, there have been three separate experiments conducted in order to research the safety and the efficacy of Belviq. For those who have been treated with Belviq for up to one year have experienced an average weight loss of 3 to 3.7 percent. This drug is not recommended during pregnancy and lists several side effects along with the usage of Belviq.

How Belviq works is by manipulating the serotonin receptors in the brain; specifically activating the serotonin 2C receptor (5-HT2CR). FDA states that the reason why Belviq is constructed to activate this specific receptor is that it “may help a person eat less and feel full after eating smaller amounts of food.” The neurotransmitter serotonin is well known for its key role in maintaining “energy homeostasis” (Marston & Heisler, 2009). In previous research, manipulating the activation or K/O (knock out) of the serotonin receptors in rats, specifically the 5-HT2CR, demonstrated that weight was indeed affected. By inactivating the gene for 5-HT2CR, it “produces hyperphagia and obesity in the mouse (Tecott et al, 1995)” Also by K/O of 5-HT2CR created a blunted response of fenfluramine production which is important in the production of serotonin neurotransmitters (5-HT).

  • On a side-note, neurotransmitters (serotonin) can be analogous as a “key” to one specific lock on a door.
  • A receptor (serotonin receptor) is similar to a “lock” on a door.
  • The door, which separates things from the inside to the outside has to be opened with the right key, unlocking the lock, allowing “things” to be produced and released in/out.
  • Serotonin receptors modulate and influence various biological responses such as anxiety, appetite, mood, sleep, and others. Serotonin receptors are a target of releasing different neurotransmitter which can either excite or inhibit neurotransmission (brain signals).

“Together, these data indicate that the 5-HT2CR is an attractive and tractable potential drug target for the treatment of obesity and/or type 2 diabetes” (Marston & Heisler, 2009).

In result, activating the receptor which allows for the release of serotonin, allows for the brain to be manipulated into “thinking” that a person is full faster. However, it is always tricky to manipulate one specific receptor because there could be unknown side-effects if accidentally interfering with other serotonin receptors. But that is why there are researchers and scientists who investigate those roles.

Yahoo News – Yahoo provides an informative Q & A of the new drug. It lists the reasoning behind why the FDA approved a new anti-obesity drug and how it works. It also provides the readers the biological explanation of how the drug works in response to the activation of serotonin receptor in the brain.

CBS News – There is a video introducing the news report of a woman named Lisa Sutter who participated in a clinical trial of Belviq. The video claims that she has lost approximately 40 pounds which is almost 20% of her body fat in one year. However, she has regained all the lost weight once the clinical trial was over and stopped taking Belviq. In a text report, CBS also provided the fact that FDA had  initially rejected Belviq in 2010. More interestingly, the comments on CBS news are overwhelmingly against the FDA and of its approval for Belviq. Several of the comments are ridiculing the FDA but also providing helpful weight managing tips to other readers by suggesting that they reduce their caloric-intakes and exercising.

Washington Post – Providing a similar video segment from CBS News. Statement such as “…tumors in animal study” could be scary to the viewers.

International Business Times – Below is a video introducing the new anti-obesity approved drug from IBTimes.

References – Marston, O. J., & Heisler, L. K. (2009). Targeting the serotonin 2c receptor for the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Neuropsychopharmacology,34, 252-253. doi: 10.103