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      The use of serotonergic drugs to treat obesity – is there any hope?

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          Surgical interventional strategies for the treatment of obesity are being implemented at an increasing rate. The safety and feasibility of these procedures are questionable for most overweight or obese individuals. The use of long-term pharmacotherapy options, on the other hand, can target a greater portion of the obese population and provide early intervention to help individuals maintain a healthy lifestyle to promote weight loss. Medications that act on the central serotonergic pathways have been a relative mainstay for the treatment of obesity for the last 35 years. The clinical efficacy of these drugs, however, has been encumbered by the potential for drug-associated complications. Two drugs that act, albeit by different mechanisms, on the central serotonergic system to reduce food intake and decrease body weight are sibutramine and lorcaserin. Sibutramine is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, whereas lorcaserin is a selective 5HT 2C receptor agonist. The recent worldwide withdrawal of sibutramine and FDA rejection of lorcaserin has changed the landscape not only for serotonin-based therapeutics specifically, but for obesity pharmacotherapy in general. The purpose of this review is to focus on the importance of the serotonergic system in the control of feeding and its potential as a target for obesity pharmacotherapy. Advances in refining and screening more selective receptor agonists and a better understanding of the potential off-target effects of serotonergic drugs are needed to produce beneficial pharmacotherapy.

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          Most cited references 157

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          Anatomy and regulation of the central melanocortin system.

           R D Cone (2005)
          The central melanocortin system is perhaps the best-characterized neuronal pathway involved in the regulation of energy homeostasis. This collection of circuits is unique in having the capability of sensing signals from a staggering array of hormones, nutrients and afferent neural inputs. It is likely to be involved in integrating long-term adipostatic signals from leptin and insulin, primarily received by the hypothalamus, with acute signals regulating hunger and satiety, primarily received by the brainstem. The system is also unique from a regulatory point of view in that it is composed of fibers expressing both agonists and antagonists of melanocortin receptors. Given that the central melanocortin system is an active target for development of drugs for the treatment of obesity, diabetes and cachexia, it is important to understand the system in its full complexity, including the likelihood that the system also regulates the cardiovascular and reproductive systems.
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            Molecular, pharmacological and functional diversity of 5-HT receptors.

            Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) is probably unique among the monoamines in that its effects are subserved by as many as 13 distinct heptahelical, G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and one (presumably a family of) ligand-gated ion channel(s). These receptors are divided into seven distinct classes (5-HT(1) to 5-HT(7)) largely on the basis of their structural and operational characteristics. Whilst this degree of physical diversity clearly underscores the physiological importance of serotonin, evidence for an even greater degree of operational diversity continues to emerge. The challenge for modern 5-HT research has therefore been to define more precisely the properties of the systems that make this incredible diversity possible. Much progress in this regard has been made during the last decade with the realisation that serotonin is possibly the least conservative monoamine transmitter and the cloning of its many receptors. Coupled with the actions of an extremely avid and efficient reuptake system, this array of receptor subtypes provides almost limitless signalling capabilities to the extent that one might even question the need for other transmitter systems. However, the complexity of the system appears endless, since posttranslational modifications, such as alternate splicing and RNA editing, increase the number of proteins, oligomerisation and heteromerisation increase the number of complexes, and multiple G-protein suggest receptor trafficking, allowing phenotypic switching and crosstalk within and possibly between receptor families. Whether all these possibilities are used in vivo under physiological or pathological conditions remains to be firmly established, but in essence, such variety will keep the 5-HT community busy for quite some time. Those who may have predicted that molecular biology would largely simplify the life of pharmacologists have missed the point for 5-HT research in particular and, most probably, for many other transmitters. This chapter is an attempt to summarise very briefly 5-HT receptor diversity. The reward for unravelling this complex array of serotonin receptor--effector systems may be substantial, the ultimate prize being the development of important new drugs in a range of disease areas.
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              Multicenter, placebo-controlled trial of lorcaserin for weight management.

              Lorcaserin is a selective serotonin 2C receptor agonist that could be useful in reducing body weight. In this double-blind clinical trial, we randomly assigned 3182 obese or overweight adults (mean body-mass index [the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters] of 36.2) to receive lorcaserin at a dose of 10 mg, or placebo, twice daily for 52 weeks. All patients also underwent diet and exercise counseling. At week 52, patients in the placebo group continued to receive placebo but patients in the lorcaserin group were randomly reassigned to receive either placebo or lorcaserin. Primary outcomes were weight loss at 1 year and maintenance of weight loss at 2 years. Serial echocardiography was used to identify patients in whom valvulopathy (as defined by the Food and Drug Administration) developed. At 1 year, 55.4% of patients (883 of 1595) receiving lorcaserin and 45.1% of patients (716 of 1587) receiving placebo remained in the trial; 1553 patients continued into year 2. At 1 year, 47.5% of patients in the lorcaserin group and 20.3% in the placebo group had lost 5% or more of their body weight (P<0.001), corresponding to an average loss of 5.8+/-0.2 kg with lorcaserin and 2.2+/-0.1 kg with placebo during year 1 (P<0.001). Among the patients who received lorcaserin during year 1 and who had lost 5% or more of their baseline weight at 1 year, the loss was maintained in more patients who continued to receive lorcaserin during year 2 (67.9%) than in patients who received placebo during year 2 (50.3%, P<0.001). Among 2472 patients evaluated at 1 year and 1127 evaluated at 2 years, the rate of cardiac valvulopathy was not increased with the use of lorcaserin. Among the most frequent adverse events reported with lorcaserin were headache, dizziness, and nausea. The rates of serious adverse events in the two groups were similar. In conjunction with behavioral modification, lorcaserin was associated with significant weight loss and improved maintenance of weight loss, as compared with placebo. (Funded by Arena Pharmaceuticals; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00395135.) 2010 Massachusetts Medical Society

                Author and article information

                Drug Des Devel Ther
                Drug Design, Development and Therapy
                Dove Medical Press
                10 February 2011
                : 5
                : 95-109
                [1 ]Department of Animal Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, USA;
                [2 ]Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Nicholas T Bello, Department of Animal Sciences, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 84 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA, Tel +1 732 932 2966, Fax +1 732 932 6996, Email ntbello@ 123456rci.rutgers.edu
                © 2011 Bello and Liang, publisher and licensee Dove Medical Press Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, provided the original work is properly cited.



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