Diabetes Drug Effective for Weight Loss

Weight LossTwo numbers have drawn a lot of attention recently from health care experts: the percentage of people who are obese and the percentage of people who have developed type 2 diabetes. The two figures are intertwined with overweight or obese people often developing higher levels of blood sugar and becoming diabetic. Medications for diabetes address the symptoms, but not the root cause. A controlled diet will help resolve both, but the will power eludes most who need it. However, a recent trial of a diabetes drug showed it to be effective at promoting weight loss a well as controlling blood sugar and be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss.

Daily shots of liraglutide (marketed as Saxenda) help address the reason the numbers of people with type 2 diabetes is growing – excess weight by reducing appetite. In a clinical study conducted for more than a year in 27 countries, the drug helped participants lose pounds. Three times as many lost 10 percent of their body weight on liraglutide than on a placebo.

The results, which were just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, helped lead the FDA to approve injectable Saxenda as a weight loss drug. (Liraglutide with a lower dose of its active ingredient is marketed as Victoza for diabetes control.) Saxenda is the fourth prescription drug approved for weight loss by the FDA in the last few years. Saxenda, Belviq, Qsymia and Contrave were all approved to help obese adults (estimated at 78 million in the U.S. alone) lose weight.

The weight-loss testing on Saxenda was extensive, with more than 3,700 adults participating. Those is the double-blind study were randomly assigned to give themselves a daily shot of either a placebo or a 3 mg. dose injection of liraglutide.

The mean age of the patients was 45, and their mean weight was 233 pounds. For this test, the participants could not have Type 2 diabetes. They all had a body mass index (BMI) over 30, or at least 27 if they had high blood pressure or cholesterol issues.

All of the study participants were encouraged to cut their calories and increase their physical activity by more than two hours a week to try and lose weight. In fact, 65 percent of those on the placebo did lose an average of 5.7 pounds during the test. However, 92 percent of those taking the Saxenda had positive results, losing an average of 17.6 pounds.

There are two down sides to Saxenda as a weight loss (or diabetes) drug:

  • First, it may need to be taken indefinitely to maintain results. Since discontinuing the medication after the 56-week study, the participants chosen to stop the drug regained more than 6 pounds on average.
  • The cost is the other concern about taking the diabetes drug liraglutide as weight loss medication Saxenda, particularly if it must be taken for years to remain effective. The retail price tag is approximately $1,000 a month. Even with medical insurance, a brand name medication can be costly. (California recently puts caps on how much someone in an Affordable Care Act health plan can pay monthly for a drug because so many expensive medications were being used.)

Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss

Los Angeles Times: Injectable diabetes medicine drives down weight, too, research finds
Daily Mail: New diet jab helps obese people lose more than a stone: Common diabetes drug injected at breakfast suppresses appetite
New England Journal of Medicine: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of 3.0 mg of Liraglutide in Weight Management
Fox News: Diabetes medication may aid weight loss, study says

Photo by Bill Branson, courtesy the U.S. National Institutes of Health