Saxenda (liraglutide) is a drug currently prescribed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. A new study has demonstrated that the drug may well be useful in helping people lose weight, even if they are not diabetic.
Saxenda is classified as an analogue to a hormone called GLP-1, made by cells in the small intestine, which acts to make the pancreas more sensitive to glucose and increase insulin output, thus lowering blood glucose levels in diabetic people. It also reduces appetite and decreases food intake. When used for diabetes control, it is given at a dose of 1.8 mg per day. The new study, however, tested the drug at a higher dose 3.0 mg/day. For both indications the drug must be given daily as a subcutaneous injection.
Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer of the Obesity Research Center at Columbia University and colleagues from several institutions tested the drug at 191 sites in 27 countries. A total of about 3,700 people were included in the study about 2,500 received the active drug and the rest got the placebo. Participants were 18 years old and older. Their body weights were stable at the beginning of the study, and they were classified as obese if their BMIs were 30 or greater. Some individuals with BMIs between 27 and 30 were included if they had comorbid conditions such as hypertension. None had diabetes at the beginning of the study.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive either Saxenda or a placebo once per day, and were not aware of which treatment they received. All of them also received counseling on lifestyle modification about once per month. They were regularly evaluated for up to 70 weeks.
At week 56, the patients were assessed to determine weight change. People in the active drug group lost an average of 18.5 pounds, while those in the placebo group lost about 6.2 pounds. These losses represented about 8 and 3 percent of their initial body weights, respectively. A greater proportion of those in the Saxenda group lost at least 5 and some lost over 10 percent of their initial body weights. Further, the control of blood glucose was also improved more in the active drug group than in the placebo group, and their was a greater reduction in other cardiometabolic risk factors such as waist circumference and blood pressure.
The authors concluded once-daily subcutaneous liraglutide, as an adjunct to diet and exercise, was associated with clinically meaningful weight loss in overweight or obese patients, with concurrent reductions in glycemic variables and multiple cardiometabolic risk factors, as well as improvements in health-related quality of life.
ACSH s Senior Nutrition Fellow Dr. Ruth Kava concurred, A safe, effective weight-loss drug is a holy grail for the pharmaceutical industry, especially since obesity has reached epidemic proportions world-wide. Although several weight-loss drugs have been approved, none have been particularly effective, and some such as phentermine (one of the oldest) are thought to be addiction-prone and to have negative cardiac effects when used long term. Even Saxenda does have some side effects mostly during initial stages of use. Whether or not a drug that has to be injected will become popular remains to be seen.