This ‘gamechanger’ drug can treat obesity by cutting body weight by 20%

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In a new study, researchers found that one third (35%) of people who took a new drug for treating obesity lost more than one-fifth (greater than or equal to 20%) of their total body weight.

The drug, semaglutide, works by hijacking the body’s own appetite-regulating system in the brain leading to reduced hunger and calorie intake.

The findings are being hailed as a “gamechanger” for improving the health of people with obesity and could play a major part in helping the UK to reduce the impact of diseases, such as COVID-19.

The research was conducted by a team at UCL.

In the study, the team tested almost 2,000 people in 16 countries.

The participants were either overweight or had obesity. Half took a 2.4mg dose of semaglutide (or matching placebo) weekly via subcutaneously (under the skin) injection; similar to the way people with diabetes inject insulin.

The team found in those taking semaglutide, the average weight loss was 15.3kg (nearly three stone), with a reduction in BMI of -5.54. The placebo group observed an average weight loss of 2.6kg (0.4 stone) with a reduction in BMI of -0.92.

This was accompanied by reductions 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.

The team says the findings represent a major breakthrough for improving the health of people with obesity.

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. For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight-loss surgery.

With evidence from this trial, semaglutide has been submitted for regulatory approval as a treatment for obesity to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

One author of the study is Rachel Batterham, Professor of Obesity, Diabetes, and Endocrinology.

The study is published in the New England Journal for Medicine.

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