The use of serotonergic drugs to treat obesity - Is there any hope?

Nicholas T. Bello, Nu Chu Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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 5HT2C 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-109
Number of pages15
JournalDrug Design, Development and Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-hydroxytryptamine
  • Dexfenfluramine
  • Dorsal raphe
  • Fenfluramine
  • Satiety
  • Serotonin 1b

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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