I don’t use the word ‘game-changer’ lightly, but the most effective drug intervention for the treatment of obesity is here and warrants this label. In a recently published online study in the New England Journal of Medicine, Semaglutide was shown to result in an average weight-loss of nearly 15% of baseline weight compared to 2.4% for placebo after 68 weeks of treatment. This weight-loss is 1.5 to two times more effective than currently available drugs on the market and sets the bar for a new generation of more effective weight-loss medications.
Starting from an average baseline weight of 230 lbs., participant average weight-loss was 14.5% (34 lbs.) compared to 2.4% (5 lbs.) for the placebo group. Furthermore, 70% of study participants reached a weight-loss of at least 10% of their baseline weight, and one-third lost at least 20% (46 lbs.) of their weight. A lot of health concerns we see in people who are struggling with their weight, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and arthritic pain of the knees improve when they reach these levels of weight-loss. Side effects from the drug included mild-to-moderate nausea and diarrhea and generally resolved without permanent discontinuation from the study.
A lower dose of Semaglutide is already available on the market for the treatment of diabetes as a 1.0 mg weekly injection under the brand name of Ozempic, and an oral formulation under the brand name Rybelsus, both manufactured by Novo Nordisk. The FDA is currently reviewing the higher 2.4 weekly dose of Semaglutide used for this study for the explicit use in obesity. The anticipated review time is 6 months from the submission date, according to the standard FDA review timeline.
Funding for the study was provided by Novo Nordisk. Dr. Kushner was the corresponding author for the Semaglutide Treatment Effects in People with Obesity (STEP) 1 study group. Dr. Kushner also serves on the Global and National Advisory Board for the company and receives fees for his service.
About the Author:
Robert Kushner, MD, is the Medical Director of the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago; Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; Past President of The Obesity Society; a founder of the American Board of Obesity Medicine; and Program Co-Chair of the OAC’s Annual Your Weight Matters Convention as well as a returning speaker. Dr. Kushner is also the author “Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!” published by Eat Right Press.