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Why the FDA’s approval of Belviq is so important

Published : Friday June 29, 2012 | Posted in : General Health
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Anyone who follows the research and development of treatments for obesity will have had an interesting week this week, after the Food and Drug Administration in the United States officially approved the weight loss medication Belviq. What makes this move so important is the fact that Belviq is the first obesity medication to be approved for 13 years. It joins Xenical as the only prescription medications currently available to treat obesity.

Weight loss medication has a contentious history, with variants like Acomplia and Reductil enjoying initial success but then being withdrawn due to safety concerns. A significant factor in the 13 year gap between approval for obesity medication is likely to be the fact that there is clear reason to be cautious when it comes to determining whether the benefits of a particular medication outweigh its risks. In the cases of Acomplia and Reductil, it transpired that the associated health risks were too serious to allow the medications to keep their licenses, despite the fact that they were highly effective.

Belviq is one of two obesity medications that have been in the headlines recently, the other being Qnexa. Qnexa has undergone numerous clinical trials but as yet has not received approval from the FDA. Both Qnexa and Belviq contain a combination of two ingredients in order to make patients feel full even with small amounts of food. They were both rejected by the FDA in 2010 for safety reasons, but further clinical trials have taken place for both medication since then. Belviq is deemed to be a safe medication but it has the potential to cause side effects and is contraindicated in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

In terms of its effectiveness as an obesity treatment, Belviq's results are fairly modest, with an average of 5% of body weight being lost by patients during trials. Bearing this in mind, why is the approval of Belviq so significant? The most obvious answer is the fact that it has been 13 years since a medication was approved for the purpose of treating obesity. If nothing else, it is encouraging to see some variety introduced for patients in the area of obesity medication. Belviq's approval may also be a cause of some relief for pharmaceutical companies, who may have been concerned about the FDA's reluctance to approve such medications following the problems that developed with Reductil and Acomplia.

Xenical box

For patients, the approval of Belviq means they will have a choice other than Xenical if they wish to use medication to help them lose weight. Though Xenical is very effective with an excellent safety record, many people are reluctant to use the medication due to its associated side effects, which are caused due to the way the unabsorbed fat is expelled from the body. Belviq does not cause such side effects because it works to control appetite rather than affect the food that is actually consumed.

Following its recent FDA approval, Belviq is expected to be made available sometime in 2013. Will Qnexa be the next weight loss medication to be given approval? Follow the updates here at the HealthExpress blog.

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