Belviq (lorcaserin): Belviq was approved in 2012 and worked by activating serotonin 2C receptors in the brain, reducing appetite. It was withdrawn from the US market in 2020 due to an increased risk of cancer.
Era of Discovery
Mechanism of Action
Activates serotonin 2C receptors in the brain, reducing appetite
History of Use in the United States
Approved in 2012, withdrawn in 2020
Benefit of Weight Loss Agent or Medication
Weight loss due to appetite suppression
Possible Side Effects
Increased risk of cancer
Current Regulatory Status in US
Withdrawn from the market
Belviq: A Novel Approach to Weight Loss Met with a Sudden End
Belviq, a weight-loss drug with a unique mechanism of action, demonstrated significant promise upon its release. However, despite its potential and novel approach, its journey ended abruptly following concerning safety data.
Origins: Lorcaserin and Serotonin Receptors
Belviq’s journey begins with its primary ingredient, Lorcaserin. This drug functions differently from its predecessors by specifically targeting serotonin 2C receptors, which are known to influence appetite. By selectively activating these receptors in the brain, Belviq aimed to reduce appetite and promote feelings of fullness after meals.
Approval and Launch: A New Chapter in Obesity Management
After a rigorous review process, the FDA approved Belviq in 2012, making it the first drug in 13 years to be approved by the FDA for chronic weight management. Its approval heralded a new chapter in obesity management, opening doors for additional research on selective serotonin receptor agonists.
Post-Marketing Trials and Concerning Safety Data
However, as part of its approval, the FDA required a post-marketing trial to evaluate cardiovascular risks, a common concern for weight loss medications. In 2020, the results of this trial revealed an increased occurrence of cancer among those taking Belviq compared to a placebo. The types of cancer varied but included pancreatic, colorectal, and lung cancer.
Withdrawal from Market: Safety Over Efficacy
In response to these alarming findings, the FDA requested that the manufacturer, Eisai Inc., voluntarily withdraw Belviq from the market in February 2020. The decision underscored the FDA's commitment to patient safety over efficacy. Despite its initial promise and the significant need for effective weight loss drugs, the potential risk of cancer could not be overlooked.
Lessons Learned: A Cautious Path Forward
The story of Belviq underscores the intricate balance between benefits and risks in drug development and post-marketing surveillance. Although Belviq brought a novel approach to obesity management, its unforeseen safety issues remind us of the importance of rigorous, ongoing safety evaluations for any approved medication. As we forge ahead in the battle against obesity, the experience with Belviq serves as a reminder of the careful consideration required in the search for safe and effective treatments.