A diabetes drug can also be a promising treatment for obesity – in a new study, people taking the drug lost a staggering 15% of their body weight, more than any other obesity drug on the market.
The drug known as semaglutide is an injectable drug that is already approved for controlling blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. But the drug also suppresses appetite.
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In the new study, published Wednesday (February 10) in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers randomly assigned 1,961 adults who were obese or overweight to semaglutide or a placebo injection once a week for 68 weeks. Participants also received monthly counseling sessions on adhering to a calorie-restricted diet and encouraged to increase their physical activity.
At the end of the study, those who received semaglutide lost an average of 14.9% of their body weight, compared to just 2.4% of their body weight in the placebo group.
Five other drugs are approved for the treatment of obesity, but even the most effective of these drugs results in about 7.5% weight loss, according to the New York Times. And these drugs can usually only be used for short periods of time, the Times reported. For example, the weight loss drug phentermine is typically taken for 3 to 6 weeks, according to the National Institutes of Health, which is a much shorter amount of time than the 68-week semaglutide treatment used in the study.
“This marks the beginning of a new era of effective treatments for obesity,” said Dr. Robert F. Kushner, an obesity researcher at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine who led the study, told the Times.
People who took semaglutide were more likely to experience gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation compared to the placebo group. However, these side effects were more temporary.
The study also didn’t look at the drug’s effects beyond 68 weeks, and people would likely have to stay on the drug for life to prevent their weight from coming back, the Times reported.
And weight loss drugs, which seem to do well in studies, may not be as effective in practice, according to CNN. In addition, several weight loss drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration were later recalled due to side effects, CNN reported.
The study was funded by the manufacturer of semaglutide, Novo Nordisk. According to CNN, the Danish pharmaceutical company has already filed an application with the FDA for approval of semaglutide for the treatment of chronic weight.
Originally published on Live Science.