Belviq: Side Effects, Cost and Reviews

Belviq may work for weight loss but consider side effects and costs first

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Belviq (lorcaserin) is a weight loss medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you are obese or overweight and have a weight-related medical condition, it may help you to lose weight. But Belviq's side effects and the cost of Belviq should be considered before you decide if the diet pill is right for you.

How Belviq Works

Belviq is FDA-approved for use in adults with a BMI of 30 and over, or for people who have a body mass index of at least 27 and have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.

 

Belviq is designed to help you feel full after you've eaten less food. The medication activates serotonin receptors in your brain. The serotonin receptors regulate hunger. When they signal your body to feel full, you may be able to eat less and lose weight.

Belviq is designed to be taken twice each day along with a low-calorie diet and exercise program. According to the FDA, the drug should be taken for the rest of the patient’s life to maintain a healthy weight. Belviq should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

How Much Weight Will I Lose on Belviq?

In clinical trials, researchers studied 8000 overweight and obese patients. The average amount of weight lost among those test subjects was 3 to 3.7% of their total body weight. Roughly 47% of patients without diabetes lost at least 5% of their total body weight, compared with 23% of patients who took a placebo.

So for example, if you currently weigh 250 pounds, it would be reasonable to expect to lose between 7.5 and 12.5 pounds while taking Belviq with diet and exercise.

While this may not seem like a significant weight loss, some patients may be able to gain health benefits by losing a small amount of weight. The Centers for Disease Control notes that losing just 5 – 10% of your total body weight can provide health benefits such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars.

If you don't lose at least 5% of your body weight within the first 12 weeks on Belviq, it is not likely that the drug will work for you, and your doctor may take you off the medication.

Belviq Side Effects and Risks

According to the FDA, common side effects of Belviq include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, and constipation. In diabetic patients, side effects are low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), headache, back pain, cough, and fatigue. The National Institutes of Health provides a full list of side effects that you should evaluate and discuss with your doctor before you take the medication. 

In the early stages of testing, researchers were concerned about cardiac issues in patients taking Belviq. But the FDA has since concluded that the drug is unlikely to cause the heart valve problems that were at issue in the early studies. However, Belviq has not been studied in patients with serious valvular heart disease and the FDA recommends that patients with congestive heart failure be especially cautious when taking the medication.

In addition, according to the to the New England Journal of Medicine there are some concerns that the drug may carry a risk of psychiatric or psychological problems, especially for people who are taking certain medications. According to the FDA, users of Belviq may experience including serotonin syndrome, particularly when taken with medicines that increase serotonin levels or activate serotonin receptors. These include medications that are used to treat depression and migraine headaches. Lorcaserin may also cause disturbances in attention or memory.

Belviq Cost and Insurance

When you calculate your total Belviq cost, you need to keep in mind that the dosage according to the FDA is two pills per day.  So most patients will require 60 pills per month. You should also remember that if you want to maintain your weight loss you need to stay on Belviq and of course, continue to pay for the medication.

If you are new to Belviq, you can get a voucher through the drug maker for a free 15-day supply of the medication. After that, the cost of the drug depends on your insurance coverage. Some sources put estimate the cost of the medication to be about $4 per pill or approximately $240 per month.

Coupons are also available to help you pay for Belviq. But there are still Belviq coupons to help you pay for the pills. If you pay cash for your prescriptions, the drugmaker offers a Belviq savings card so that you pay no more than $75 per month. For patients with insurance, the savings card can also be used to keep your costs in control.

Is Belviq Right For You?

This diet medication is not recommended for "vanity weight loss." That is, the diet pill shouldn't be used for people who just want to look better in their favorite pair of jeans. Certainly, there are significant costs to be considered if you are interested in taking Belviq. Several critical reviews of Belviq have mentioned of the long list of potential side effects and the small amount of weight that it may help you lose. But if you've tried other methods of weight loss without success, you may want to discuss Belviq with your doctor. Be sure to weigh all the risks and benefits when talking to your health care provider to make the best medical and lifestyle decision for you.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control. Healthy Weight - it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle! Accessed: November 24, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html

Eric Colman, M.D., Julie Golden, M.D., Mary Roberts, M.D., Amy Egan, M.D., M.P.H., Joyce Weaver, Pharm.D., and Curtis Rosebraugh, M.D., M.P.H.. "The FDA's Assessment of Two Drugs for Chronic Weight Management." New England Journal of MedicineOctober 25, 2012.

Food and Drug Administration. Medications Target Long-Term Weight Control. Accessed: November 24, 2015. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm312380.htm

Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves Belviq to treat some overweight or obese adults. Accessed: February 11, 2013. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm309993.htm

Seeking Alpha. Assessing Arena's Belviq As A Diabesity Drug. Accessed: February 11, 2013. http://seekingalpha.com/article/1059621-assessing-arena-s-belviq-as-a-diabesity-drug

Arena Pharmaceuticals. Arena Pharmaceuticals and Eisai Announce FDA Approval of BELVIQ® (lorcaserin HCl) for Chronic Weight Management in Adults who are Overweight with a Comorbidity or Obese. Author/Organization. Accessed: November 25, 2011. http://invest.arenapharm.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=68718BeBelvapphttp://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/022529lbl.pdf

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