Prescription Appetite Suppressant Reduces Risk of Diabetes

Patient Expert
Medically Reviewed

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.

In 2018, several journal articles were published reporting on the findings of the CAMELLIA-TIMI 61 study group’s randomized, placebo-controlled trial of lorcaserin. One set of study findings was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found that after a year of treatment with lorcaserin, patients lost an average of 9.3 pounds, compared to only 3 pounds for a 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.

A separate article published in The Lancet reported on the study group’s findings of other significant health benefits for those taking lorcaserin:

  • In a sub-group of people with prediabetes, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was reduced by 19 percent.
  • In a sub-group of people with normal blood sugar, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was reduced by 23 percent.
  • In a sub-group of people with diabetes, more patients were able to lower their blood sugar levels and avoid hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
  • Among 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."

About lorcaserin

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.

See more helpful articles:

Are You at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?

The Benefits of Careful Blood Sugar Management

Hypoglycemia: 10 Signs of Low Blood Sugar