As with all of these drugs, it’s FDA-approved for people who are overweight — they have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 (for example, someone who is 5’6″ tall would need to weigh more than 185 pounds) ; or for people with a BMI greater than 27 (eg, a 5’6″ person who weighs 167 or more) with an obesity-related condition, such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Most of these medications should only be taken short-term and in conjunction with medical advice. See how to calculate your BMI.
Lorcaserin (Belviq) is a drug that stimulates the area of the brain that regulates appetite and satiety, explains Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, DC. Belviq targets the brain’s receptors for serotonin, a brain chemical that plays a role in feeling full. (Serotonin also plays a role in mood regulation.)
What can you expect? Studies involving nearly 8,000 obese and overweight people taking Belviq show that 37.5 to 47.5 percent of patients lost more than 5 percent of their body weight over a period of one to two years. Patients also made diet and exercise modifications. His rule of thumb is that if you don’t lose 5 percent of your weight after 12 weeks of treatment, you probably won’t respond. “We see good weight loss in about 50 percent of patients, and it’s very safe,” he says. Both cholesterol and blood sugar levels also appear to decrease in Belviq users. Side effects can include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, and low blood sugar for people taking medication to treat diabetes, but the chances of this happening are very small, he says. It is among the best weight loss pills when it comes to safety. “One of the special features of Belviq is that it is very well tolerated,” he says. However, people with a history of heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and pregnant women should not take this drug. The FDA’s advisory panel initially rejected this weight-loss pill because of the tumor risk observed in animal studies, and the European Medicines Agency was so concerned about the drug’s safety that it rejected Belviq. However, an analysis in JAMA points out that Belviq is associated with fewer adverse events than other Rx weight loss pills. Try these 50 ways to lose weight without exercising a bit.
Approved in 2014, Saxenda stands out from the Rx weight loss pill pack as it is the only one that is administered as a shot. It’s a higher dose of an older diabetes drug called Victoza. Saxenda mimics the effects of GLP-1,1 (glucagon-like peptide), a hormone produced in the gut that suppresses appetite.
What can you expect? Study participants who ate a restricted-calorie diet, increased their exercise routine, and took Saxenda lost an average of 18.5 pounds over 56 weeks, according to results published in New England Journal of Medicine. In contrast, those who made these lifestyle changes but were given a placebo instead of Saxenda lost just six pounds. “I’ve seen great results with Saxenda, particularly in patients at risk for diabetes and those who have a family history of diabetes,” said Reshmi Srinath, MD, assistant professor of diabetes, endocrinology, and bone diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai in New York City. To know if you’re at risk, check if you have these habits that increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Side effects of Saxenda can include nausea, which can be severe, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and/or low blood sugar, says Dr. Kahan.