‘Gamechanger’ drug cuts body weight by 20% in global study

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Researchers in London say a new drug could be a gamechanger in the fight against obesity.

A global study by scientists at University College London involved 2,000 people who were either overweight or had obesity (average weight 232 pounds), and took place at 129 sites in 16 countries across Asia, Europe, North America and South America.

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Participants took a weekly 2.4mg dose of semaglutide (or matching placebo) weekly via injection, similar to the way people with diabetes inject insulin. Overall, 94.3% of participants completed the 68-week study, which started in autumn 2018.

A third (35%) of the participants who took a new drug lost more than one-fifth (greater than or equal to 20%) of their total body weight.

“The findings of this study represent a major breakthrough for improving the health of people with obesity,” said Rachel Batterham, professor of obesity, diabetes and endocrinology who leads the Centre for Obesity Research at UCL and the UCLH Centre for Weight Management. “Three quarters (75%) of people who received semaglutide 2.4mg lost more than 10% of their body weight, and more than one-third lost more than 20%. No other drug has come close to producing this level of weight loss — this really is a gamechanger. For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight-loss surgery.”

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Semaglutide works by hijacking the body’s own appetite regulating system in the brain leading to reduced hunger and calorie intake.

Those taking part in the study also received individual counselling sessions from registered dietitians every four weeks to help them stick to a diet and exercise program.

In those taking semaglutide, the average weight loss was 34 pounds, with a reduction in BMI of -5.54. The placebo group observed an average weight loss of 5.75 pounds with a reduction in BMI of -0.92.

With the weight loss came a reduction in risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, such as waist circumference, blood fats, blood sugar and blood pressure and reported improvements in their overall quality of life.

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Semaglutide has now been submitted for regulatory approval to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence.

The study was published Feb. 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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