There is good news for diabetics who are struggling to lose weight. New clinical trials have showed that the diabetes medication ‘liraglutide’ may help more than twice as many obese subjects to
lose 5% of their body weight – and more than three times as many lose a tenth of their body weight, compared with subjects taking a placebo. The findings were published in New England Journal of Medicine.
Marketed as Saxend, this injectable drug, is being manufactured by Novo Nordisk. It was approved last December by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration as a weight-loss drug. At a lower dose of its active ingredient, liraglutide (1.8 milligrams vs. 3 millilgrams), Saxenda is marketed as Victoza, a diabetes medication.
“Given previous disappointments with various weight-loss strategies, these are welcome findings,” wrote endocrinologists Elias S. Siraj and Kevin Jon Williams, both of Temple University School of Medicine, in an accompanying editorial.
At the same time, Siraj and Williams wrote, “liraglutide is no cure.”
Miraculously, those taking the drug also have reduced risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Compared with subjects getting liraglutide, those getting a placebo medication were eight times likelier to be diagnosed with type-2 diabetes during the 12-month trial.
Saxenda is the fourth medication to get the green flag for weight loss by the FDA in the past three years. It joins the drugs Belviq (lorcaserin), Qsymia (a combination of phentermine and topiramate) and Contrave (a combination of naltrexone and bupropion) in the newly fortified arsenal of pharmaceuticals aimed at helping the nation’s 78 million obese adults shed excess weight.
The research , researchers recruited 3,371 subjects who did not have diabetes but who had a body-mass index of 30 or greater — classifying them as obese — or who had a BMI between 27 and 30 (overweight) and had high blood pressure or a worrisome cholesterol profile.
Saxenda’s cost of $1000 is a worrying concern as as obese patients will have to take liraglutide “indefinitely, like statins,” to maintain their weight loss, wrote Siraj and Williams. In a group of participants who were randomly chosen to discontinue the medication after 56 weeks, the average weight regained in 12 weeks was 6.4 pounds.
There may an increased risk of breast or thyroid cancers with the intake of these medications. FDA has required Novo Nordisk to conduct further trials to rule out these risks.
Siraj and Williams acknowledged both concerns required further research before confirmation. However, at the same time, they agreed with the authors of the published research that higher rates of breast cancers seen in those taking Saxenda were most likely linked to improved detection in women who had lost more weight.