A new slimming pill could help millions fight middle-age spread, a major study has found.
Scientists say lorcaserin is three times more effective than dieting alone. The twice-a-day tablets boost the brain cells that control appetite, which can become less effective with age.
A US trial of 12,000 overweight people found those taking the drug lost an average of 9lbs 3oz in the first year – triple the 3lbs lost by those who relied on weight-loss advice alone – and kept the weight off for at least the three years of the study.
Crucially, lorcaserin was also shown to be safe long-term, which could pave the way for it to be made available worldwide.
Experts said the pill – which costs about $260 for a month’s supply – would fill a huge gap in the battle against spiralling obesity problems.
Dr Erin Bohula, who led the study at Harvard Medical School, yesterday told the European Society of Cardiology congress in Munich – the world’s largest gathering of heart doctors – that the findings were an ‘important milestone’.
She added: ‘We have been able to demonstrate for the first time in a rigorous, randomised way that this weight-loss drug does what it is intended to do – it helps people lose weight – without causing an increase in adverse cardiovascular events in a population at higher risk for heart attacks and strokes.’
Dr Bohula said dieting and exercise should remain the ‘cornerstone’ of weight loss, but added: ‘The challenge has been that it is hard to maintain.’
The research also showed the drug cut the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 19 per cent and improved blood pressure, blood sugar and heart rate.
Lorcarserin could help overweight adults of any age, but experts believe they could be particularly useful for those in middle age.
Lorcaserin, sold under the brand name Belviq, has been available with a doctor’s prescription in the US since 2012.