The generic drug lorcaserin which was approved by the FDA in 2012 has been under scrutiny by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center into its effects on the brain to find out why it was so effective.
“Human feeding behaviors involve areas of the brain responsible for cognitive control and decision-making,” said Christos S. Mantzoros, MD to Newswise. “We wanted to find out if lorcaserin was acting on these brain regions and, if so, where and how… We need to continue to develop safe and effective therapies to combat this epidemic.”
Previous studies had found that half of people that took the drug lost 5% of their body mass within a year, however the variables changes so much between person to person.
The first study used 48 obese men and women, half of which took the drug and half of which took a placebo for four weeks. They subjects would regularly come in for a checkup and a brain scan.
The fMRI scans in week 1 revealed that people taking the drug showed decreased brain activity in response to images of highly desirable foods.
According to Newswise “The data also revealed that subjects who had the strongest brain responses to food prior to taking lorcaserin saw the most success with the weight-loss medication.”
Lorcaserin could prove to be of particular benefit to ‘emotional eaters’.
“Decreases in caloric intake, weight, and BMI were linked to strong responses to food cues in the areas of the brain related to emotion, pleasure and attention prior to taking the weight-loss drug, which suggests that lorcaserin could prove to be of particular benefit to ‘emotional eaters,’ ” Mantzoros said.
The authors note that previous generations of weight loss drugs had a broader scope for what they affected, and as a consequence had dire cardiac side effects. Lorcaserin on the other hand could provide weight loss without the nasty side effects.
“In addition, the different mechanism of action in comparison to other drugs for obesity creates an opportunity for combination drugs for the treatment of obesity,” Mantzoros said. “This might create more powerful solutions and is something that remains to be explored.”