Approval of the nation's first weight loss drug in 13 years came by way of the FDA earlier this week with the authorization of Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc's Belviq.
Federal regulations have been exceptionally strict on weight loss drugs particularly since the drug known as "fen-phen" was pulled from the market in 1997 due to record high cases of illnesses and deaths associated with the drug.
Belviq (chemically lorcaserin) is designed to decrease hunger by suppressing appetite signals in the brain that would make individuals feel hungry after eating small amounts of food. According to the manufacturer, clinical trials of Belviq saw patients losing about 5 percent of their body weight on the drug. And the FDA will enforce a warning on the product stating that it should be discontinued if after 12 weeks on Belviq patients still have not lost at least 5 percent of their total body weight. The drug is only approved for individuals with a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or greater, which is considered clinically obese, or if a combination of a 27 BMI and another weight-related illness such as type-2 diabetes or high cholesterol is present.
As obesity rates continue to climb across the nation, putting pressure on public health and the economy, regulators have been looking to offer a safe medical solution to the crisis. A recent study found that obesity related health problems costs the U.S. nearly $200 billion in medical expenses annually even despite widespread efforts to alter Americans' eating habits and lifestyle choices.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
Image: the Italian voice