Weight loss pills have long been regarded with suspicion by doctors – and for good reason. Most of the drugs that have claimed to aid weight loss over the years have brought with them a whole host of dangerous side effects, including heart problems. But now, scientists may have found one that may actually be safe to use. A new study carried out at the Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston in the US has concluded that the drug Lorcaserin (or Belviq) can help people lose weight and keep it off, without causing any damage to the heart.
Appetite supressant pills have a history of causing harmful side effects
Researchers followed 12,000 people who were either overweight or obese with a high risk of heart disease. Half were given the appetite suppressant and the other half placebo pills. All of them were given lifestyle and diet advice, and followed for three years after treatment. They found the Belviq users lost twice as much weight as the control group, had lower rates of diabetes, and fewer went on the develop serious heart conditions. However, it should be noted that 7% of the Belviq group suffered side effects from the medication, such as dizziness, fatigue, nausea and headaches.
"Patients and their doctors have been nervous about using drugs to treat obesity and for good reason," study author Erin Bohula told the Associated Press. "There's a history of these drugs having serious complications." And although it looks like the drug is safe for three years, further research needs to be carried out to see whether it remains safe with longer term use.
Julie Ingelfinger and Clifford Rosen, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, where the study was published, wrote in an accompanying editorial that Belviq "may be best used on a cautious basis, according to the needs of individual patients."
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