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A fortnight ago, the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) gave its approval to an anti-obesity drug — lorcaserin (trade name Belviq) — for the first time in 13 years.
Anti-obesity drugs have always been shadowed by reports of side-effects that can sometimes be fatal. The last drug to receive FDA nod was discontinued after a year.
Bariatric or gastric binding surgery, which drastically cuts down the amount of food a person can consume has gained popularity as an effective weight-loss measure and the scientific community hopes to make an obesity vaccine too.
According to recently released WHO statistics, 11 per cent of India's population is overweight and nearly 24 million people (2 per cent of population) are obese.
In the last five years, two so-called obesity panaceas have been banned in India. There is only one approved anti-obesity drug in India, which is only mildly effective.
Doctors often vouch for the safety of orlistat, which has been available in the market for around 10 years, even though it is known to cause diarrhoea at times. It is effective on only 20 per cent of patients, those who have a high fat intake. It is a prescription drug, just like lorcaserin (the newly-approved drug). Drugs approved in the US normally take a year or two to reach Indian chemist shops.
Lorcaserin has been approved for healthy adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. Those with a BMI of 27 and one obesity related health condition (like hypertension) can also be prescribed the drug. The drug acts on brain receptors associated with satiety. So, a person who takes the drug would feel satiated with less amounts of food.
BMI is a measure of the fatness of a person, a ratio of body weight and the square of height in the same measurement system.
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