Animal Study Suggests Lorcaserin (Belviq®) May be Useful to Reduce Opioid Intake Interview with:
Christina R. Merritt and Kathryn A. Cunningham
Center for Addiction Research
University of Texas Medical Branch
Galveston, TX 77555 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Opioid use disorder (OUD) is one of the top public health problems in the United States. Overdoses on prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl accounted for 33,091 deaths in the U.S. in 2015 (; each day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose ( The first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health ( ) observed that more people used prescription opioids than tobacco in 2015. Furthermore, individuals with OUD, the most problematic pattern of opioid abuse, often relapse, particularly in environments associated with past drug use, and new means to help maintain abstinence are needed.

Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) function in the brain, particularly through its cognate 5-HT2C receptor, is an important regulator of the abuse liability of cocaine and other psychostimulants. Previous studies suggested that the weight loss medication and selective 5-HT2C receptor agonist lorcaserin (Belviq®) can curb cocaine- and nicotine-seeking in preclinical models, even when tested in tempting environments. We administered lorcaserin to rats who were trained to take the powerful painkiller oxycodone (OxyContin®), a prescription opioid currently approved for treatment of acute and chronic pain with characteristically high abuse potential. Lorcaserin suppressed oxycodone intake as well as the drug-seeking behaviors observed when rats were exposed to cues such as the lights and sounds previously associated with drug intake. Taken together, these findings highlights the therapeutic potential for lorcaserin to extend abstinence and enhance recovery from OUD. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: These data suggest that lorcaserin (Belviq®) may be useful to reduce opioid intake and maintain abstinence in human abusers through its actions to stimulate the brain 5-HT2C receptor. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future studies are required to determine if the efficacy of lorcaserin to suppress oxycodone intake and relapse vulnerability extends across the larger class of opioid receptor agonists (e.g., heroin, morphine). Additionally, future studies should investigate whether lorcaserin provides therapeutic relief of withdrawal symptoms after cessation of opioid intake. Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?

Response: Despite high abuse liability, prescription opioids are exceptionally effective in managing pain. There is much to gain from the development of new analgesic medications that separate the therapeutic, pain-relieving effects from the abuse liability of opioids.


Lorcaserin Suppresses Oxycodone Self-Administration and Relapse Vulnerability in Rats

Harshini Neelakantan, Erica D. Holliday, Robert G. Fox, Sonja J. Stutz, Sandra D. Comer, Margaret Haney, Noelle C. Anastasio, F. Gerard Moeller, and Kathryn A. Cunningham
ACS Chemical Neuroscience

DOI: 10.1021/acschemneuro.6b00413

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on April 11, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD