The drug stimulates brain chemicals to induce a feeling of fullness.
The drug stimulates brain chemicals to induce a feeling of fullness.

Diet pill hailed as ‘holy grail’ in obesity fight

WE SEE the words "holy grail" and "weight-loss pill" in the same sentence and are instantly sceptical.

However a major study has hailed one particular diet pill as just that - a potential "holy grail" in the fight against obesity.

Researchers say the medication lorcaserin, currently available in the US, is the first weight-loss drug to be deemed safe for heart health with long-term use.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, says adults using the drug lorcaserin lost an average of 4kg over 40 months, tripling the chance of significance weight loss.

The study followed 12,000 overweight or obese adults in the US over three-and-a-half years, Press Association reports.

Taken twice a day, the drug is an appetite suppressant which works by stimulating brain chemicals to induce a feeling of fullness.

Tests for heart valve damage showed no significant differences compared to those taking the placebo. This has been a key concern over the safety of other slimming pills in recent years, as well as mental health concerns.

Tam Fry, of Britain's National Obesity Forum, said the drug could be the "holy grail" of weight-loss medicine.

"I think it is the thing everybody has been looking for," he told The Guardian UK.

"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.

"But all of the other things apply - lifestyle change has got to be root and branch part of this."

The study into lorcaserin's long-term effects was led by Dr Erin Bohula, a cardiovascular medicine expert at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"Patients and their doctors have been nervous about using drugs to treat obesity and for good reason. There's a history of these drugs having serious complications," she told Press Association.

The Food and Drug Administration, the US medicines watchdog, approved lorcaserin's use in some adults in 2012. The drug has been available in the US since 2013 under the name Belviq.