‘Game-changing’ weight-loss results in new anti-obesity drug trials

By Editor
21st July 2021

The weight-loss results from anti-obesity drug semaglutide have been described as ‘eye-popping’ by those who led a new study into its effectiveness.

Patients taking part in the study in America lost an average of 15% in weight after being given a weekly subcutaneous injection of 2.4 mg of semaglutide and a lifestyle intervention, with a third losing 20% or more – a figure approaching the results of some bariatric surgery.

Dr Robert Kushner, an obesity medicine specialist at Northwestern University and a researcher in the Semaglutide Treatment Effect in People with obesity, led the STEP 1 study and described the results as ‘game-changing’.

A ‘substantial’ number of patients lost 10%, 15% and 20% in body weight, figures far higher than the those seen in previous trials.

Semaglutide mimics glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), a gut hormone that increases insulin secretion and helps regulate appetite. In early June, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved semaglutide for chronic weight management alongside a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, following the results from the latest study. The drug has been approved at a lower dose for type 2 diabetes treatment since 2017.

Dr Kushner highlighted that while weight loss normally plateaus by 28 weeks with anti-obesity drugs currently on the market, those receiving semaglutide continued to lose weight for most of the 68-week trial, something he described as “eye-popping”.

The results are significant when compared with the effectiveness of other drugs used in the long-term treatment of obesity, which help people lose an average of between 5% and 10% of their body weight.

Researchers say the study results show not just the potential of semaglutide in treating obesity, but they also demonstrate how a growing understanding of the ways in which the body regulates weight loss can lead to more effective treatment.

Dr Thomas Wadden, a professor of psychology in psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and former director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, commented: “I think that we’re at a new dawn in the management of obesity.”

While obesity experts have hailed the potential of the drug, they have also warned that the legacy of weight-loss drugs and preconceptions about obesity could create a barrier to its uptake and accessibility.

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