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FDA approves obesity drug that helped people cut weight 15%

On Friday, regulators announced that a new version of a popular diabetes medicine would be sold in the United States as a weight-loss treatment.

Wegovy, a higher-dose variant of Novo Nordisk’s diabetes medicine semaglutide, has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for long-term weight control.

Participants in the trials who took Wegovy lost an average of 15% of their body weight, or roughly 34 pounds (15.3 kilograms). Before plateauing, participants dropped weight continuously over 14 months. The average weight reduction in a comparative group receiving fake injections was roughly 2.5 percent, or little under 6 pounds.

“With existing drugs, you’re going to get maybe 5% to 10% weight reduction, sometimes not even that,” said Dr. Harold Bays, medical director of the Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center. Bays, who is also the chief science officer of the Obesity Medicine Association, assisted in the drug’s development.

Obesity affects more than 100 million individuals in the United States, or around one-third of the population.

Even losing 5% of one’s weight can have health advantages, such as better energy, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, according to Bays, but that amount typically doesn’t please patients who are looking to lose weight.

Wegovy, according to Bays, looks to be significantly safer than previous obesity medicines that “have gone down in flames” due to safety concerns. The most prevalent adverse effects of Wegovy were gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Although these symptoms normally faded, roughly 5% of trial participants decided to discontinue taking it.

People with a personal or family history of certain thyroid and endocrine malignancies should avoid using the medicine because it presents a risk for a kind of thyroid tumor. Depression and pancreatic inflammation are additional possible side effects of Wegovy.

Wegovy’s price has not been revealed by the Danish manufacturer, but it is expected to be similar to that of Saxenda, a daily weight reduction medicine that costs more than $1,300 a month without insurance.

Wegovy’s value, according to Dr. Archana Sadhu, director of Houston Methodist Hospital’s diabetes department, “all depends on what the price will be.” Patients’ health insurance policies don’t often cover weight-loss therapies, placing pricey medications out of reach, according to her.

Sadhu, who has no ties to Novo Nordisk, intends to move obese patients with Type 2 diabetes to Wegovy.
It makes patients feel fuller faster and stimulates insulin production from the pancreas, which helps to regulate blood sugar, according to her. Patients would be more inclined to exercise and eat healthier as a result, she noted.

Wegovy is part of a growing trend in which manufacturers of novel diabetes medications evaluate them for use in other illnesses common in diabetics. Jardiance, a popular diabetic medicine, and Victoza, a medicine made by Novo Nordisk, have just received FDA clearance for lowering the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death in heart patients.

Phylander Pannell, 49, of Largo, Maryland, enrolled as a patient in the study after losing and gaining weight in cycles. She got Wegovy, worked out several times a week, and shed 65 pounds in 16 months.

“It helped curb my appetite and it helped me feel full faster,” said Pannell. “It got me on the right path.”

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