Wegovy — a high-dose version of the diabetes drug semaglutide — has been approved as a new aid to weight loss by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Studies funded by drug maker Novo Nordisk showed that participants who received weekly injections of the drug had an average weight loss of 15% and lost weight steadily for 16 months before leveling off, the Associated Press reported.
In comparison, participants who received a placebo had average weight loss of about 2.5%.
“With existing drugs, you’re going to get maybe 5% to 10% weight reduction, sometimes not even that,” Dr. Harold Bays, chief science officer at the Obesity Medicine Association, told the AP. Bays has helped conduct studies of Wegovy and other obesity and diabetes drugs.
In the United States, more than 100 million adults — about 1 in 3 — are obese.
Dropping even 5% of one’s weight can bring health benefits, such as improved energy, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, but it often doesn’t satisfy patients who are focused on weight loss, Bays said.
Bays said Wegovy’s most common side effects were nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Those usually subsided, but led about 5% of study participants to stop taking it.
The drug also shouldn’t be given to people at risk for some cancers, because of a potential risk for certain thyroid tumors, the FDA said.
Wegovy is a synthesized version of a gut hormone that curbs appetite. That’s a new strategy in treating obesity, Dr. Robert Kushner, a member of Novo Nordisk’s medical advisory board who heads Northwestern Medicine’s Center for Lifestyle Medicine, told the AP.
Novo Nordisk said it also is developing a pill version that should start final patient studies later this year.
Posted: June 2021