Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, and a new prescription medication developed by Arena Pharmaceuticals called Belviq (lorcaserin HCl) claims to target hunger receptors in your brain, which can help some overweight and obese patients lose weight and keep it off. In fact, by working to help you feel satisfied when eating less, Belviq is claimed to be the first FDA-approved prescription for weight loss in more than a decade.
There’s no doubt that losing weight and keeping it off is hard work, but the process can be even more frustrating if you’ve struggled with diet and exercise alone. While new medications are popping up every day, promising to treat this or cure that, does “new” necessarily mean “better” or “effective?”
Let’s take a look at the answers to these questions, as well as what you can expect when taking Belviq, and whether or not it’s worth the money.
How Belviq Might Help You Lose Weight
Although the exact method of action is unknown, Lorcaserin HCl, the primary active ingredient in Belviq, is thought to “activate proopiomelanocortin (POMC) production and consequently promote weight loss through satiety.” In layman’s terms, this basically means that Belviq is thought to target hunger receptors in your brain that help you feel fuller sooner. In fact, in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise, Belviq claims to be clinically proven to work (see more about this in the final section).
However, if you’re just looking to shed a couple pounds, you’ll need to choose something other than Belviq, as this medication was FDA-approved for use with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity for people who are overweight (defined as a BMI of 27 kg/m² or greater) with a weight-related medical condition, or obese (defined as a BMI of 30 kg/m² or greater). With this said, according to one clinical trial, Belviq helped almost half of the participants lose 5% or more of their body weight, while more than 22% lost 10% of their body weight after one year of use.
In addition to losing pounds, Belviq is also claimed to help reduce high-risk weight-related health factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. The company also offers an “exclusive” support program that can provide you with expert weight loss advice, recipes, and tools you can immediately put to use.
How to Take Belviq & Common Side Effects
In order to begin using Belviq, the manufacturer recommends taking one 10mg tablet twice per day, with or without food. Side effects are claimed to be rare, although among those who do experience them, common symptoms include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, and/or constipation.
However, Arena Pharmaceuticals specifically states that “It is not known if BELVIQ when taken with other prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal weight-loss products is safe and effective. It is not known if BELVIQ® changes your risk of heart problems, stroke, or death due to heart problems or stroke.” This means that you’ll certainly want to consult with your physician about Belviq or any other medication you’re thinking about taking.
Is Belviq Expensive?
What you’ll pay for Belviq depends largely on the prescription coverage offered by your health insurance provider. However, if you don’t have prescription coverage, one online reviewer claimed that a 30-day supply of Belviq cost them $200.
With this said, Arena Pharmaceuticals does offer a free 15-day trial of Belviq through their website, as well as a savings card which could help you save $75 per month on your Belviq prescription. With your trial, you’ll also receive a one-year membership to the activity tracker app Lose It!, nutritional information from EatingWell, meal planning tools, and helpful reminders to keep you on track.
What Do Patients Have to Say About Their Experiences with Belviq?
Overall, Belviq appears to have a very positive online reputation with patients, many of whom experienced increased, sustained weight loss, reduced food cravings, and a significant reduction in appetite, all of which helped them to lose weight.
However, just like any other prescription medication, not all users had a wholly positive experience. Some of the most common complaints related to Belviq included failure to result in weight loss, headaches, muscle aches, dizziness/nausea, increased tiredness, and very high price (particularly if you don’t have health insurance).
Is Belviq Your Answer to Successful, Long-Term Weight Loss?
The promise of a new weight loss prescription medication can seem like a godsend, particularly if you’ve struggled to lose weight in the past. But if you’re unable to lose a meaningful amount of weight using only diet and exercise, can Belviq be the answer to your problems? It’s possible, but keep the following in mind:
The Effectiveness of Belviq
Belviq’s primary claim is that it can help you lose weight, but overall, most individuals taking the medication during clinical trials only lost 3% more weight (about 6 pounds) than those who were taking a placebo. This means that if you’re looking to lose significantly more weight with Belviq than with only diet and exercise, you may end up being disappointed.
With this said, based on the patient reviews we came across during our research, you can expect to lose about 1-3 pounds per week when taking Belviq, with some patients having reported losing as much as 15-20 pounds in a month. However, Consumer Reports states that, “people who take the drug for a year can expect to lose just 3 to 3.7 percent of their weight, and may gain the weight back, research suggests. In one trial, patients taking Belviq did lose up to 5 percent of their body weight after 12 months, but gained back 25 percent of it by the end of the second year.” Ultimately, the review stated that Belviq’s benefits may not necessarily be worth the side effects and associated risks.
Finally, although Belviq has been shown to be effective for most of the patients who take it, if you do not lose a certain amount of weight within the first 12 weeks, your doctor will likely tell you to stop taking the medication.
A Rocky Road to Approval
Next, consider that lorcaserin HCl was originally denied FDA approval in 2010 based on concerns over its safety and efficacy. This was due to “diagnostic uncertainty in the classification of mammary masses in female rats, unresolved exposure-response relationship for lorcaserin-emergent mammary adenocarcinoma, and unidentified mode of action and unclear safety margin for lorcaserin-emergent brain astrocytoma.” Although lorcaserin’s mode of action has still yet to be determined, it appears the manufacturer satisfactorily addressed the FDA’s other concerns, and it was approved for release in 2012 and scheduled in 2013.
Bottom Line: There is No Magic Pill for Weight Loss
When it comes down to it, although Belviq may have a good chance of giving your weight loss results a minor boost, especially if you’ve struggled to lose weight in the past, remember that it’s not “magic,” and it shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution. What do we mean by this?
The most effective way of losing weight and keeping it off is through eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Because of this, you may need to make some lifestyle changes in order to continue losing (or even just maintaining) weight after you quit taking Belviq. Otherwise, you’ll likely find that you quickly pack the pounds back on after you stop taking the medication.
Also, you’ll need to have a detailed discussion with your doctor about whether or not the risks associated with Belviq outweigh the potential benefits.