Prescription Appetite Suppressant Reduces Risk of Diabetes
There’s promising news for people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Researchers have found that the appetite-suppressing drug lorcaserin, which goes by the brand name Belviq, can lower your blood sugar levels, reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and reduce your risk of diabetic complications such as kidney disease, retinopathy, and neuropathy.
Lorcaserin has been approved by the FDA for weight loss, and studies have shown that it can result in modest but ongoing weight loss in people who are overweight or obese. It does not have the cardiac risks or side effects associated with other weight loss drugs.
The results of the double-blind, placebo-controlled study were published in late 2018 in the prestigious European medical journal, The Lancet. Researchers studied 12,000 patients, separated into three groups that included:
- Overweight patients with diabetes
- Overweight patients with prediabetes
- Overweight patients with normal blood sugar
After a year of treatment with lorcaserin, all three groups of patients lost an average of 9.3 pounds, compared to only 3 pounds for the placebo group. Specifically, more than 39 percent of the patients taking lorcaserin lost at least 5 percent of their body weight, and 15 percent of the patients lost at least 10 percent of their body weight. The group taking lorcaserin experienced other significant health benefits:
- In the group of people with prediabetes, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was reduced by 19 percent.
- In the group of people with normal blood sugar, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was reduced by 23 percent.
- In the group of people with diabetes, more patients were able to lower their blood sugar levels and avoid hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
- Among the people with diabetes, the risk of kidney complications, as well as diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy, was reduced by 21 percent
At the 2018 Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, the co-lead author of the study, Benjamin Scirica, MD, stated: “[Lorcaserin] provides another tool in the armamentarium, beyond diet and exercise, for patients hoping to achieve and maintain weight loss. And, happily, as we saw, even relatively modest weight loss can improve the diabetes control in those with diabetes and reduce the development of diabetes in those at risk."
Lorcaserin was approved by the FDA in 2012 for treatment of obesity in adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher – or 27 or higher in patients who have a weight-related health condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or elevated cholesterol.
Lorcaserin reduces appetite by activating receptors for serotonin. Lorcaserin is a Schedule IV drug, classified as a controlled substance, primarily because abuse or overdosage can have hallucinogenic effects. But when taken as prescribed, lorcaserin is considered safe, and the most common side effects include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, back pain, and cough. There is an increased risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in patients with diabetes.
Should you take lorcaserin?
If you have prediabetes or diabetes, and are overweight with a BMI of 27 or higher (check out our HealthCentral BMI Calculator to find out your BMI), you may want to discuss whether lorcaserin could be a helpful addition to your treatment. Along with a healthy diet and other lifestyle changes such as exercise, the weight loss benefits could be helpful in preventing diabetes, improving your blood sugar management, or reducing the risk of complications of your diabetes.
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