New diet drug that targets appetite suppression in the brain

(WXYZ) - One of the most exciting new drugs in dieting is now out on the market.

It is one of the first diet drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in more than a decade. It's called Belviq.

It's different because it tells your brain you are not hungry and not your stomach.

Meet the patients

We found three patients taking it. They are letting us tell their story and track their progress over the next few months.

Our first patient is Naomi Flores. She is 47-years-old and wants to lose 25 pounds.

Next, is Howard Greenseth. He is 80-years-old and said he has been overweight most of his life.

"There are few foods I don't like," laughed Howard.

And William Clauson is 51-years-old. He wants to lose more than 100 pounds.

"I would always have to have a snack before I go to bed," said William.

All three have already noticed a change in their eating habits.

"By the third day, I really had to think, ‘What do I want? I'm really not hungry," said Howard.

"It has taken away all my cravings," said Naomi.

"I forget to eat sometimes. It's now 3:00 in the afternoon, and I had a half of banana this morning and that's it. And I am not hungry," said William.

Fat Country

America is the second fattest country in the world losing out to Mexico by only one percent.

The FDA approved Belviq last year, but manufacturers didn't put it on the market until June 11, 2013.

"Since then, I've written about 240 prescriptions. I've had some really good responses from my patients who say that they are losing weight without side effects," said Dr. Steven Vig who practices Internal Medicine in Tucson.

The drug is recommended for people who are obese which is an easy category to fit in these days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's estimated that 36 percent of Americans are obese. That means your body mass index or BMI is more than 30.

"The drug is not a fat burner. It doesn't raise your blood pressure. It doesn't raise your pulse rate. It doesn't make you nervous or anxious or give you insomnia. It simply lowers your appetite, decreases your cravings for food, decreases your hunger, you eat less and then you weigh less," said Dr. Vig.

While most diet drugs work as an appetite suppressant in your stomach, Belviq works as a suppressant in your brain.

"This thing actually targets a receptor in the brain which is very specific for appetite. It is almost like a laser gun going to the appetite center of your brain," said Dr. Vig.

Still Controversial

But not all doctors are sold. Dr Heidi Rula is the Medical Director at the UA Integrative Health Center in Phoenix. She said the drug is too new.

"I don't think it's been given to enough patients and watched over time to be able to prove the safety of the drug," said Dr. Heidi Rula.

She doesn't treat obesity with pills. She said her center uses alternative therapies like chiropractic and acupuncture.

"Integrative medicine is whole person medicine. It looks at mind, body, spirit and lifestyle medicine. We feel lifestyle is incredibly important to health. So, we are going to look into things like nutrition, stress and exercise," said Dr. Rula.

She's not alone. Our sister station KNXV- TV had trouble finding doctors in the Phoenix area prescribing the new drug. They called a dozen doctors and several weight loss clinics and found many who wouldn't try it just yet.

But, doctors at the Scottsdale Weight Loss Center already prescribe it.

Doctor Robert Ziltzer has written about a dozen prescriptions so far. He said he's already seeing dramatic weight loss when using Belviq with an overall treatment plan.

"This, amongst all the other things we can offer patients, is just making it easier to treat this very, very complex disease," said Dr. Ziltzer.

Results

So is it working? So far our patients have been taking it for about one month.

"I can tell already that my clothes are not as tight," said Naomi.

So far, Naomi has lost 6 pounds.

Howard said the key is to exercise and eat at least three times a day.

"It's just been absolutely amazing. It's cleared my mind, and I have vitality and before it was even effecting my walking but, now I have full mobility. It's like a miracle," said Howard. He's lost 17 pounds.

William has also lost 17 pounds.

"You just don't think about food anymore," said William. "Before I would go back for seconds and thirds, till it's gone. Now, I don't do it.

"There's never been a need for a drug like Belviq in the past as much as there is right now," said Dr. Vig.

Belviq is pricey. It costs more than $200 for a month's supply. The manufacturer offers a savings card of $75 off each month for a year.

Our patients tell us they break even with the money they save by eating less.

We are going to follow Naomi, Howard and William over the next few months. We'll let you know how well the drug is working and how much weight they lose.

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