Medication may make gastric bypass more effective

Stimulating serotonin receptors with an anti-obesity drug increased the weight loss effects of surgery.

By Stephen Feller

BOSTON, July 8 (UPI) -- Researchers have found that the most common form of bariatric surgery can be more effective when paired with the anti-obesity drug lorcaserin, helping to produce more weight loss than either method alone.

Lorcaserin, sold as Belviq, stimulates serotonin receptors in the brain which act to suppress food consumption.


"This is the first reported example of a rational, mechanism-based strategy for combining bariatric surgery with medication to treat obesity," said Lee Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition Institute at MGH, in a press release. "Our finding that not all potential weight-loss-activating pathways are engaged after surgery suggests that those unengaged pathways could be good targets for complementary therapies to improve surgical outcomes."

Researchers previously considered combining Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, the most common form of bariatric surgery, with another drug called fenfluramine, which stimulates the melanocortin-4 receptor that regulates energy balance and body weight, in addition to increasing serotonin signaling. This increased the effectiveness of the bypass in lab tests with mice, however fenfluramine was withdrawn from use for treating obesity because of negative cardiovascular side effects.

Lorcaserin was not available for testing in mice, so researchers used a different drug in the lab that stimulates the same serotonin receptors finding that it was successful in reducing weight.


The study is published in Endocrinology.

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