Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Evening Edition

FDA Approves San Diego Company's Diet Pill For Adults


The Food and Drug Administration has approved Arena's anti-obesity drug, designed for adults who are at least 30 to 50 pounds overweight.

Obesity Drug Approved By FDA

Doctors say nearly 35 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese and many physicians have been calling on the FDA to approve new weight loss treatments.

Arena Pharmaceuticals in Sorrento Valley will be the first company in more than a decade to market a long-term diet pill.

"This is really big news," said Dr. Ken Fujioka, medical director of the Scripps Clinic Center for Weight Management in La Jolla. "I see about 50 patients a week for weight loss and probably another 20 or 30 where we're doing research on different types of weight loss methods.

His research team also did the majority of testing for Arena Pharmaceuticals' newly approved diet pill Belviq, known generically as lorcaserin. "This particular drug has a very specific place," said Fujioka. "It can be used in patients who have heart disease or who are at risk for cardiovascular problems. So it doesn't stimulate at all, it just simply lowers your appetite."

It's estimated that two-thirds of American adults are overweight and one-third are considered morbidly obese. Dr. Fujioka said there's no magic in the new diet pill, but the results can be significant over time. "It's not a medication you take by itself and expect to lose weight. You really need to do the other things, you need to diet, exercise and change your behavior. It can be done and the nice thing is this medication will help that. It will make it easier to stay on track," he said.

Arena Pharmaceutical's new weight loss pill should be available to the public early next year.

Meanwhile, a company in the Bay Area is trying to get its diet pill, Qnexa, approved by the FDA next month.