The panelists were also concerned about the drug's modest weight loss, but said overweight and obese patients needed more options.
"Currently the options available to obese patients are very limited, and severely obese patients are willing to accept a high degree of risk," said panel member Dr. Daniel Bessesen, chief of endocrinology at the Denver Health Medical Center. "And while it isn't an ideal drug... I think it will be a useful adjunct."
The FDA often follows panel recommendations, although it is not required to. It is due to make a final decision by June 27.
After the panel vote, Arena and Eisai said they were expanding their partnership.
If the drug is approved, Arena will manufacture lorcaserin at its facility in Switzerland, then pass it to Eisai for distribution in most of North and South America, including Canada, Mexico, and Brazil.
Obesity, a leading cause of diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health problems, has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. with nearly a third of the population falling into the category.
The pricetag of obesity has also soared, with the condition contributing an additional $190 billion a year in health-care costs, or one-fifth of all health-care spending.
But the FDA has set a very high approval bar for weight loss drugs because such a large portion of the general population is likely to want to take them.
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