About a third of the participants lost 20% of their basic weight, or about 46 pounds. This is similar to weight loss for patients undergoing bariatric surgery, Kushner said.
“It is the very first time that we have a drug that even approaches the weight loss that people with bariatric surgery can achieve,” he said.
Those taking the drug were more likely to have nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation. About three-quarters of the study group had these side effects compared to less than half of those who took the placebo. After the study, participants reported better physical function, less pain, better blood pressure, and better glucose control.
Semaglutide is now on the market for the treatment of diabetes, and it is approved for use at a lower dose than in this study. The drug manufacturer Novo Nordisk filed for FDA approval for the 2.4 milligram dose for weight control in December. Based on the standard FDA schedule, the review could take about 6 months, the company said.
According to the CDC, more than 42% of Americans are obese, which means they have a body mass index of 30 or more. Being overweight increases the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Treatments are few, however, and current medications require shots once, twice, or three times a day.
The semaglutide study is “another first step,” wrote Dr. Julie Ingelfinger, a nephrologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. Clifford Rosen, a researcher at Tufts University School of Medicine, in an accompanying comment in TheNew England Journal of Medicine.
However, they noticed some limitations. For example, most of the participants were aware of what does not reflect the US population. In addition, the study did not examine the long-term effectiveness of sustained weight loss. Current drugs on the market are often not good in the real world and some have been discontinued due to side effects.
“Overall, we still have a long way to go to control the obesity epidemic,” they wrote.