Anti-obesity prescription drug hits the market


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist CHRISTIAN GARCIAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on June 11, 2013 at 6:30 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 11 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- A new, FDA-approved weight loss drug hit the market Tuesday. It's called Belviq. It's prescription only, because it's designed for those who are obese or significantly overweight.

Teresa and Dave Kaylor took their daughter Violet for a stroll along the Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trails Tuesday. They were accompanied by their friend Tim Reiter.

"I'm a big guy," said Reiter, who lives in Vermont. "My answer to dealing with my weight is to go out and exercise, and that's what we're here doing today."

Reiter is 6'5" and 285 pounds.

"According to standards of body mass index or whatever society wants to portray, I'm fat," he said.

Tuesday a new, anti-obesity drug, Belviq, hit the market. John Grohol, PsyD a psychiatrist and the founder and CEO of Psych Central writes:  "Belviq appears to work by turning on a specific chemical switch in the brain that increases levels of serotonin. It's not clear exactly why this helps a person lose weight."

Belviq is available with a prescription for patients who are obese -- defined as having a body mass index (BMI) over 30 -- or for certain overweight patients who are not obese but have a significant health problem like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

"If you have something like a thyroid problem or something like that I'm all about seeking a solution," said Reiter.  

Like all drugs, Belviq has certain side effects. Women who are pregnant or nursing shouldn't take it due to the risk serotonin syndrome -- a dangerous chemical imbalance. It can also pose problems for people taking certain medications for heart disease, depression, migraine or anxiety disorders. It's the side effects of any medication that concern Reiter and his friends.

"I think you have to weigh all the risks and benefits," said Dave Kaylor. "It's a very difficult question to answer.  We want an easy solution, and we've become pill-popping society, so with all the risks, there's probably other ways to help your health without taking a pill."  

"For someone who deals with other health problems and who has dealt with medications with pretty significant side effects, no it's not worth the risk at all to me," said Reiter. "If there's a natural solution, I'm going to go for that."

The FDA recommends patients stop taking Belviq after three months if they fail to lose five percent of their body weight. Another anti-obesity prescription drug, Qsymia, also went on the market recently but in limited supply. It's expected to become more widely available this year.

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