This summer has been a big one for weight loss drugs. Lorcaserin, which was approved by the FDA in June, was the first weight loss drug approved since Alli back in 1999. Qsymia, previously known as Qnexa, was approved in July and is touted as the most powerful weight loss pill on the market.

Lorcaserin will be sold as Belviq and is manufactured by Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Like all weight loss drugs, Lorcaserin is to be used in conjunction with diet and exercise. This drug will be available for those with a BMI greater than 30, or those with a BMI greater than 27 if accompanied by one co-morbid condition like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or high cholesterol. Those who used Lorcaserin in clinical trials were able to lose five percent of their body weight in one year; some patients were able to lose more than 10 percent of their body weight in a year. Lorcaserin is not to be taken during pregnancy, it can affect white and red blood cell count, increases prolactin levels, and can cause erections lasting more than six hours in men.

One important thing to notice is that the results gained by taking Lorcaserin came after a year of taking the drug. With such small results, the question can be asked, is the small margin of weight loss worth the potential side effects?  At best, a 300-pound person stands to lose 30 pounds. That’s easily attainable with a healthful reduced-calorie diet and consistent fitness regimen involving both cardio and strength training.

I posed that question to’s pharmacist Dr. Sarah G. Khan, who answered, “Personally I think no. When people look to weight loss drugs, I think they are in a helpless phase, feeling like their weight is spiraling out of control and trying to get control back by taking medication. Nutritional and psychological counseling might help get to the root of eating problems.”

Although you can achieve the same results on your own with a healthy diet and exercise plan that you can with Lorcaserin, some people will opt for the pill. Speaking with Dr. Khan about Lorcaserin, I asked if she thought people would flock to this drug believing it is a magic solution without putting in the work. “Sadly I do, especially in this economy. Healthy food is expensive and people can’t afford gym memberships.”

As new drugs are introduced to help with the problem of obesity, it is important that everyone remember that moving more and eating healthier works. Monitoring your calories and burning more than you consume is the key to lasting weight loss. Weight loss pills may help you lose weight, but they don’t instill proper habits that will help you keep off the weight.

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image via the FDA