The third new drug is Orexigen Therapeutic's Contrave, which is a combination of the antidepressant Wellbutrin and the addiction drug naltrexone.
For the lorcaserin study, Smith's team randomly assigned 3,182 obese or overweight people to lorcaserin or placebo. Patients took lorcaserin twice a day for a year and also took part in diet and exercise counseling.
After one year, 47.5 percent of those taking lorcaserin had lost 5 percent or more of their body weight. "That's about 20 pounds," Smith said.
Among those taking the placebo, only 20.3 percent had achieved that amount of weight loss, the researchers found.
After the first year, people taking lorcaserin were randomized to lorcaserin or placebo for an additional year. Among people who stayed on lorcaserin, 67.9 percent were able to maintain the weight loss they had seen in the first year. Among those who were switched to a placebo, 50.3 percent were able to maintain their weight loss, Smith's group reported.
Smith's team noted that for those taking lorcaserin, there was no increase in heart valve problems as had been seen with the discredited diet drug Fen-Phen. However, common side effects included headache, dizziness and nausea.
Dr. Arne Astrup, from the department of human nutrition at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and author of an accompanying journal editorial, said that "the trial on lorcaserin provides evidence of a safe weight-loss medication, that seems to provide benefits in terms of reducing risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease."
Also, it does not have the same problems as the previous weight-loss drugs, Fen-Phen (Phentermine), Acomplia (rimonabant) or Meridia (sibutramine), which had been associated with heart problems, he said.
"If weight-loss drugs are tailor-made to hit only the right receptor, based on physiological knowledge, it seems to be possible to develop weight-loss medications that do not possess an
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