"Game-changer" obesity drug cuts 20% of weight in a third of subjects
In what the authors are hailing as a “game-changer” in the realm of weight loss therapy, a major global study has demonstrated how an obesity drug can cut significant body weight from many of those who take it. Originally developed to treat diabetes, the drug in question works by taking control of the body’s appetite regulation system, with one third of the study recipients cutting more than one fifth of their body weight through weekly injections combined with conventional weight-loss programs.
Called semaglutide, the drug is a clinically approved treatment for type 2 diabetes and mimics the chemical structure of a naturally-occurring hormone called GLP-1, which reduces feelings of hunger by acting on the appetite control center in the hypothalamus region of the brain.
A 2017 study investigating the potential of using semaglutide as a weight-loss medication brought some promising results, with 28 clinically obese subjects exhibiting a decreased appetite and an average weight loss of 5 kg (11 lb) over 12 weeks.
These investigations have now progressed to a Phase III trial, which involved almost 2,000 overweight or obese adults from 129 locations in 16 different countries. Over a 68-week period, the subjects were injected weekly with semaglutide or a placebo and were placed on weight-loss programs involving diets with reduced calories, increased physical activity and counseling sessions with dietitians.
Among those given a placebo, the average weight loss across the study was 2.6kg (5.7 lb), to go with a reduction in body mass index (BMI) reduction of 0.92. In the group given semaglutide, the average weight loss was 15.3 kg (33.7 lb), and the average BMI reduction was 5.54. This group also exhibited reduced risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, including things like blood sugar, blood pressure and waist circumference.
Some subjects experienced side effects such as nausea and diarrhea, though the researchers describe these as “transient” and say they were generally resolved without removing those subjects from the study.
“The findings of this study represent a major breakthrough for improving the health of people with obesity,” says Rachel Batterham from the University College London, prinicipal author of the paper. “Three quarters of people who received semaglutide lost more than 10 percent of their body weight and more than one-third lost more than 20 percent. No other drug has come close to producing this level of weight loss – this really is a game changer. For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight-loss surgery.”
The results of this trial have seen semaglutide submitted to health authorities in Europe, the US and the UK for approval as a treatment for obesity.
“This is a significant advance in the treatment of obesity,” says the trial’s UK Chief Investigator, Professor John Wilding from the the University of Liverpool.“Semaglutide is already approved and used clinically at a lower dose for treatment of diabetes, so as doctors we are already familiar with its use. For me this is particularly exciting as I was involved in very early studies of GLP1 (when I worked at the Hammersmith Hospital in the 1990s we were the first to show in laboratory studies that GLP1 affected appetite), so it is good to see this translated into an effective treatment for people with obesity.”
The research was published in the New England Journal for Medicine.
Source: University College London