Lorcaserin: 'Holy Grail' Weight Loss Drug Found to Be Safe in Obesity Study

A weight loss drug that helped participants in a study lose over 4 kilograms (almost 10 pounds) has been hailed as a "holy grail" in the battle against obesity.

Unlike many weight loss drugs, scientists found lorcaserin did not raise the risk of cardiovascular problems among at-risk individuals who took part in a clinical trial.

The authors of the study published in The New England Journal of Medicine acknowledged lifestyle changes are the recommended way to lose weight. But they wanted to understand whether a drug could help a person shed pounds without harming their heart health.

Lorcaserin works by suppressing the appetite. According to BBC News, the drug is taken twice a day, and costs between $220-290 (£155-225) per month in the U.S.

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Researchers found the weight loss drug lorcaserin did not raise the risk of heart disease unlike others. Getty Images

Tam Fry of the U.K.-based National Obesity Forum told the Press Association lorcaserin could be a "holy grail" of weight-loss drugs.

She said: "I think there will be several holy grails, but this is a holy grail and one which has been certainly at the back of the mind of a lot of specialists for a long time.

However, Fry cautioned: "But all of the other things apply—lifestyle change has got to be root and branch part of this."

To test the safety of lorcaserin, the researchers recruited 12,000 overweight or obese patients. They randomly assigned the participants a placebo or lorcaserin. Over a three-year period, the state of their health was documented.

The study revealed patients who took lorcaserin lost 4.2 kilograms on average (9 pounds), while those on the placebo lost 1.4 kilograms (3 pounds).

And participants who took lorcaserin were at no greater risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event, like a stroke, when compared with those who were given the placebo.

In the past, weight loss drugs have been discontinued after being found to increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary hypertension, and valvular heart disease, the authors emphasized.

Lorcaserin was also found to cut the risk of pre-diabetic patients developing diabetes, as well as being linked to small improvements in levels of blood pressure, triglycerides, blood glucose, and heart rate.

Dr. Erin Bohula, a cardiovascular medicine and critical care specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, who co-authored the research, said in a statement: "The study showed for the first time in a rigorous, randomized way that this weight loss drug helps people lose weight without causing an increase in adverse cardiovascular events in a population at higher risk for heart attacks and strokes.

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The researchers did not see an improvement of cardiovascular health, Bohula said.

"However, the magnitude of impact on cardiovascular risk factors was relatively small," she explained.

Lorcaserin could be an important tool in the battle against obesity. Worldwide rates of the condition have almost tripled in the past 40 years. In the U.S., 39.8 percent of adults are obese, and are burdened with a greater risk of conditions such as stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.