A drug called lorcaserin, marketed as Belviq and made by Arena Pharmaceuticals was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday as the first drug to treat obesity in 13 years.
"The US Food and Drug Administration today approved Belviq (lorcaserin hydrochloride), as an addition to a reduced-calorie diet and exercise, for chronic weight management," it said in a statement.
The drug works to control the appetite through receptors in the brain by activating the serotonin 2C receptor.
Trials showed the drug helped patients lose an average of three to 3.7 percent of their body weight after a year when compared to a placebo, the FDA said.
It is approved for use in obese adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, or overweight adults with a BMI of 27 or greater who have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.
"Obesity threatens the overall well being of patients and is a major public health concern," said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
"The approval of this drug, used responsibly in combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle, provides a treatment option for Americans who are obese or are overweight and have at least one weight-related comorbid condition."
The last anti-obesity drug approved in the United States was Xenical (Orlistat) by Roche in 1999.
Sold over the counter as Alli by GlaxoSmithKline, it works by preventing the body from absorbing fat, though its tendency to cause gastrointestinal side effects such as oily, loose stools have curbed its popularity among patients.