Could a weight loss medication also help smokers kick their tobacco habit? That’s what Arena Pharmaceuticals is hoping to find out through a series of clinical trials that are connecting Belviq (lorcaresin) and smoking cessation. Currently only approved for weight management in overweight or obese individuals, there is evidence from a first round of clinical studies suggesting that Belviq could also be used to help people stop smoking.
In March 2015, the financial insights website Seeking Alpha reported that Arena’s first 12-week smoking cessation trial had yielded promising results: participants in the group that received Belviq were approximately three times more likely to quit smoking than participants in the group that received a placebo. Arena announced that they would be conducting a 52-week follow-up with study participants to see if those who had quit smoking were continuing to abstain from the habit a year later.
If Belviq is approved as a smoking cessation drug, it will be competing with Chantix, which is currently the most commonly prescribed medication for quitting smoking. Chantix works by acting on nicotine receptors in the brain, which causes people to feel less pleasure when smoking and also reduces nicotine cravings. However, this drug does not help with weight management, and weight gain is a commonly cited problem for people who have quit smoking. Belviq, which acts on chemicals in the brain that affect appetite, could help with both smoking cessation and weight management. It may also be less likely to cause serious side effects than Chantix; in clinical studies, side effects have typically been mild, with the most commonly reported adverse effects being headache, dry mouth, nausea, dizziness, and constipation.
If the FDA does approve Belviq for smoking cessation, it will likely be at least another year or two before the medication gains a new indication on its label. The FDA approval process is a long and one, and additional studies are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of a drug before being labeled as a smoking cessation aid.
There are other FDA-approved medications that people who are trying to quit smoking may be able to use in the meantime. In addition to Chantix, buproprion (available under the brand names Zyban, Wellbutrin, and Aplenzin) is sometimes used to reduce nicotine cravings. All prescription drugs come with a risk of side effects, so it’s important that people who are considering using this type of medication talk to their doctor to determine if it is safe for them.
Talk to your doctor to get more information about this use of this drug. To get free coupons and reduce the cost of Belviq by up to 75% use the Rx Search feature of our site to be mailed your free savings card.