New weight-loss drugs provide more options for overweight women, from Harvard Women's Health Watch

The first new weight-loss drugs in more than a decade are now on pharmacists' shelves. Will these medications provide the solution many overweight women are seeking? The September 2012 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch looks at the benefits—and risks—of both new and established weight-loss drugs.

In June, the FDA approved lorcaserin (Belviq). It suppresses hunger by stimulating a receptor serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain that regulates fullness and metabolism. A month later, the FDA approved Qsymia, a combination of phentermine and the antiseizure/antimigraine drug topiramate. Qsymia also suppresses appetite, and it appears to be more effective for weight loss than any other single drug.

These highly anticipated new medications join several existing weight-loss drugs. Orlistat (Xenical) works by blocking fat absorption, while phentermine (Adipex-P, Pro-Fast), diethylpropion (Tenuate), and phendimetrazine (Bontril, Adipost, Anorex-SR) suppress appetite.

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