Long-term weight loss in a pill? Ex­per­i­men­tal drug shows prom­ise, study says

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Mike Sto­bbe

AT­LANTA — An ex­per­i­men­tal diet pill helped about half the peo­ple who tried it lose some weight and keep it off a year later with­out the heart prob­lems that some ear­lier drugs caused, a study found.

Arena Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals’ lor­caserin is one of three drugs that are boost­ing hope for a new gen­er­a­tion of more ef- fec­tive weight-loss medicines. One gets a Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­view to­day, and the oth­ers later this year.

In the study, lor­caserin caused more peo­ple to lose at least 5 per­cent of their body weight over one year, more than twice the rate achieved by those on dummy pills.

Most peo­ple don’t stick to di­ets. And diet pills have had bad side ef­fects or can’t be taken long-term. A low point came in 1997 when the pop­u­lar “fen-phen” was pulled from the mar­ket af­ter it was tied to heart valve prob­lems.

But now comes lor­caserin, a blue tablet that would be the first novel weight-loss pill in a dozen years if it wins ap­proval. The drug tar­gets the same ap­petite path­way fen-phen did but in a more se­lec­tive, and per­haps safer, man­ner.

Re­sults of a large com­pa­ny­fi­nanced study of it are in to­day’s New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine.

The study in­volved more than 3,100 obese or over­weight peo­ple given ei­ther the drug or dummy pills.

Af­ter a year, nearly 48 per­cent of the lor­caserin group had lost at least 5 per­cent of their body weight — about 13 pounds on av­er­age. Just 20 per­cent of the placebo group lost that much weight.

Only about half of those in the study stuck with it for a year. That’s not un­usual; diet stud­ies typ­i­cally have lots of dropouts. But more of the peo­ple on lor­caserin stayed in than those on placebo, sug­gest­ing that side ef­fects were not a prob­lem.

A sec­ond phase of the study be­gan af­ter one year with the orig­i­nal par­tic­i­pants who re­mained. Those on dummy pills kept tak­ing them, while the peo­ple on lor­caserin were as­signed ei­ther to keep get­ting it or to switch to dummy pills. Nei­ther they nor their doc­tors knew which treat­ment they were re­ceiv­ing.

Of those in the lor­caserin group who had lost at least 5 per­cent of their body weight in the first year of the study, about 68 per­cent who kept tak­ing the drug kept the weight off, ver­sus 50 per­cent of those switched to dummy pills.

Ex­cept for headaches and dizzi­ness, side ef­fects were es­sen­tially no worse with the drug than placebo. There was no higher rate of heart valve prob­lems — a key con­cern. How­ever, larger stud­ies are needed to con­clu­sively rule out this risk.

Un­like some other obe­sity drugs, lor­caserin did not raise heart rates or blood pres­sure. In fact, choles­terol lev­els and other risk fac­tors for heart dis­ease im­proved in those on the drug.

“It looks very safe at this point,” said study leader Dr. Steven Smith of the San­fordBurn­ham Med­i­cal Re­search In­sti­tute in Or­lando.

Some ex­perts de­scribed the drug’s ef­fec­tive­ness as mod­er­ately good and its safety as ap­par­ently very good. The find­ings are prob­a­bly suf­fi­cient to meet FDA bench­marks and win ap­proval, they pre­dicted.

Arena hasn’t put a price on lor­caserin.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.