Lorcaserin, which has been trialled on about 12,000 people in the United States, serves as an appetite suppressant
Scientists claim new pill 'could solve obesity crisis'
A slimming drug found in trials to have a significant impact on weight loss without causing heart damage could be used to fight the world's worsening obesity crisis.
Lorcaserin is currently being used in the US, but has yet to be approved in Europe.
Trials of the drug in a population of 12,000 overweight and obese people in America found 40 per cent lost at least 5 per cent of their body weight, suggesting it could become the "holy grail" of slimming.
The study also found 15 per cent of those taking part lost more than 10 per cent of their weight, compared with just 5 per cent of those who took a placebo instead.
The research was undertaken by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard University, and although doctors found some people who took lorcaserin suffered side affects including nausea and headaches, no impact was found in respect of increasing the risk of serious heart problems.
The drug works as an appetite suppressant, stimulating brain chemicals to induce a feeling of fullness.
Dr Erin Bohula, who led the study, said the drug was the first weight-loss pill to show long-term cardiovascular safety in a high-risk population.
“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,” said Dr Bohula.
Results from the study were presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Munich, Germany, and revealed, on average, that patients lost 4.2kg while on lorcaserin compared with 1.4kg when taking a placebo.
The US Food and Drug Administration first approved the drug's use in some adults in the States in 2012. It was later made available under the name Belviq in 2013 and cost $220 to $290 (Dh730-Dh1,060) a month.
European authorities, meanwhile, have yet to give the drug the green light. As well as the potential to affect the heart, there are concerns weight-loss drugs can lead to mental health issues.
Of the 1.9 billion people around the world now considered either obese or overweight, 650 million are adults.