Tag Archives: pills

What is Belviq, the New Weight Loss Drug?

Belviq is a new weight loss drug that just became available by prescription this past week, one of only two new weight loss drugs approved by the FDA in the last 13 years. (The other is Qsymia, which I have already written about.) It is made by Arena Pharmaceuticals. Belviq is the trade name, Lorcaserin is the generic name, and it was called Lorqess during its development.

Belviq affects the serotonin receptors in the brain, changing the neurotransmitter action of serotonin, the brain chemical you hear about related to mood. SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are a group of drugs that are mainly used to treat depression, but it has been found that many of the drugs that affect neurotransmitters have lots of other affects, change in appetite among them. Drugs that change the action of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are used to treat many psychological conditions, even psychotic disorders, because they change the way we think and feel. They can create experience in the psyche like hallucinations, expansive thoughts or euphoria (good mood or feeling), or quell it, like reducing cravings and dark thoughts, or quieting hallucinations and mania. The antidepressant Wellbutrin was found to quiet the cravings of people trying to quit smoking and was then marketed also as Zyban. Some of these drugs were found to increase appetite, cravings, and drive to eat, and some have been found to reduce appetite and cravings. Pharmaceutical companies create new drugs, experiment with them, then market them for the effects that they produce. Belviq is sold as a weight loss drug, a drug to reduce appetite.

Does it work?

Reliable clinical studies have shown that people given the drug lost weight slightly more than people given a placebo, even without instruction in weight loss protocols. In studies where people were instructed in weight loss technique, people taking the drug did about twice as well as those taking the placebo. In all cases, the weight loss was slight, and the weight was regained after the trials. I have seen no reports that relate the subjective experience of appetite or craving suppression by the study subjects, which is the main thing I would like to know about. One would assume, based on the results of the clinical studies, that eating drive was reduced by the drug.

What value would any weight loss drug have?

Everyone familiar with my work knows that there is no mystical magic to successful weight loss. We must establish new behavior where we eat less, to the degree that we lose weight and keep it off. My method has been so successful because of the use of psychological techniques that are so effective in managing thoughts and feelings and so effective in changing habit –deleting damaging habits and installing healthy habits.

I know, from personal experience, as well as my work with clients and patients, that we are all different in many ways, and we have different psychological experience, like appetite, cravings and compulsion.

For those who experience uncontrollable drive that results in life threatening bingeing and uncontrollable compulsive eating, I pray that we find a drug that can mitigate outrageous eating drive without presenting unwanted and dangerous side effects. People would still have to manage their behavior with the methods I teach, but it would be so much easier if one were not tormented by the compulsion that I know some people experience. Is Belviq such a drug? I hope to find out.

Is Belviq safe?

There are so many bad side effects being reported that it is scary, even to a mental health counselor who has seen it all. Not only are psychological side effects being reported, but risk of medical problems seems high. Both the University  of California’s Wellness Letter and Consumer Reports have published critical reviews that would discourage just about anyone but the most desperate from taking it.

The Anderson Method recommendation:

To solve your weight problem, you will have to create new habits of behavior and thinking, no matter what. You will need to maintain them for the rest of your life. Many people have used The Anderson Method to do just that, some saying it was easy. If you can do that without drugs, that will be the best solution. After all, you don’t want to be taking these drugs for the rest of your life, even if they are safe.

If you are unable to manage compulsive eating and bingeing and the experience of craving is an absolute torment, drugs might help. There are a number of drugs that have helped people with unwanted eating drive, such as Wellbutrin, Lexapro and Topamax. And they have been around for a while. My advice, if you want to try a drug to help with weight control, is to find an expert in these drugs (Psychiatrists or Psychiatric Nurses) and try one that is known to be safe. Remember that no matter what, no drug is going to make you lose weight or solve your weight problem. The solution is in behavioral therapy science. A drug may make it easier to do the work, but you will still need to do the work. If you want to try a drug, try one that’s known to help some people and been around for a while. Let someone else be the guinea pig with Belviq.

 

Qnexa, the New Weight Loss Pill

From the New York Times: “A federal advisory panel on Wednesday overwhelmingly recommend approval of what could become the first new prescription drug to treat obesity in 13 years. The advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted 20 to 2 that the benefits from the weight loss provided by the drug, Qnexa, more than offset the potential risks of heart problems and birth defects.”

Qnexa is a combination of two existing drugs — the stimulant phentermine, which was the surviving part of the fen-phen combination, and the epilepsy and migraine drug topiramate, also known by the brand name Topamax. If you google around, you’ll get all sorts of details about the effectiveness in trials and the dangers.

I have had clients who have used these drugs. Sometimes they have helped, modestly. Sometimes they have done no good.  I’ve also had clients who have had the bariatric surgery, only with surgery, the dangers were greater, and the negatives were assured, not just possibilities.

As an obesity treatment expert, let me emphasize that weight loss cannot be achieved without behavior change, establishing habits that result in eating fewer calories than used. If a medication can help a person to do this, without adverse risk, I am all for it. The prospect of an effective medication that would make it easier to actualize healthy behavior is much better than surgery, though I encourage the surgery if it is the only way to sustain life, and time has run out.  

 As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with a lifetime of treating mental disorders, let me make it clear that an array of thought and behavior disorders are affected by disorder in brain chemistry, and the effective treatment is medication. Good examples are depression and OCD, a relative of compulsive overeating. Treatment with medication alters the brain chemistry to relieve depression and OCD symptoms. We know that medications can reduce appetite and eating compulsions. Are drugs the solution to obesity? No. Behavior change is. But in some cases, drugs help, and in some cases, it seems behavior change is not possible without drugs. 

Let’s not forget that the solution to obesity is in behavior change. Sometimes, drugs can help, but drugs can only be a part of the answer. Most of the time, drugs play no part. Always, the answer is in Behavioral Medicine.

When I was young and obese, out of control and in the dark about how to solve my problem, I would have jumped at the chance of one of these miracle cures. I am so glad that I learned the real solution and lost not only the 140 pounds, but the risk and danger of these false promises. If you are overweight and hoping for a drug that will help with the problem, I am with you for that. But don’t wait to learn what you can do in regards to other Behavior Medicine technology to make the changes you’ll need to make. You’ll need to learn them anyway, even if a drug comes along that really works. Why not learn it now? You may find that you’ve solved the problem before a foolproof drug appears, which may or may not happen.