One of the 3 obesity drugs submitted for FDA approval this year, Arena Pharmaceuticals’ locaserin did not show higher rate of heart valve problems in those on the drug, a study found. The researchers reported little signs of side effects in patients other than headaches and dizziness that were no worse with the drug than placebo.

A double-blind clinical trial published in New England Journal of Medicine found that patients on lorcaserine lost at least 5 percent of their body weight over one year and they kept it off a year later. The patients in the study received the drug in conjunction with diet and exercise counseling.

Although more comprehensive study needs to done, the drug did not raise heart rates or blood pressure. Instead, the study reported improvement in cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart disease, showing promise for obese patients with heart problems.

Locaserin by San Diego-based Arena is the first novel drug to be introduced in two decades if approved. Other two new diet pills are a combination of existing drugs at optimal doses for weight-loss. Locaserin works similar to fen-phen by controlling appetite but is safer according to the company.

The issue of safety and side effects are taken seriously for weight loss drugs. Current diet pills and appetite suppressant has health concerns with side effects from heart risks and stomach problems.

"There's a whole group of individuals we cannot use these current medications on," said Dr. Robert Kushner, a weight-loss expert at Chicago's Northwestern University.

Some experts think that Locaserin is likely to get approved based on the findings of the drug’s effectiveness and safety. The drugs should first prove effective by meeting the FDA guideline that requires obesity drugs to reduce total body weight by at least five percent after one year. The safety of the drug will be reviewed by FDA panel September.

"It looks very safe at this point," said study leader, Dr. Steven Smith of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in Orlando.