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New Weight Loss Drug May Be Like No Other

Semaglutide's results suggest it could be a game-changer
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2021 8:22 AM CST
Updated Feb 14, 2021 9:35 AM CST

(Newser) – We may have a game-changer when it comes to obesity drugs. The results of a clinical trial involving taking higher doses of Novo Nordisk's Type 2 diabetes drug semaglutide as an anti-obesity medication were published Wednesday, and they're staggeringly good: Those who injected it weekly for a little more than a year lost an average 14.9% of their body weight with only very minor gastrointestinal side effects, per the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. And 32% of those who took semaglutide lost 20%, and diabetes and pre-diabetes symptoms eased among many in the semaglutide group. Those in the placebo group, who like the semaglutide group also received diet and exercise counseling, lost just 2.4%. The New York Times provides context: There are only 5 available anti-obesity drugs right now, but all have side effects.

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The best among them, phentermine, results in an average 7.5% weight loss and can't be used for very long, and the weight comes back once it is no longer being taken. Bariatric surgery has a higher impact of 25% to 30% weight loss but it's a very invasive option that relatively few people pursue. Semaglutide is a synthetic version of a hormone found in the gut that's released after eating to tell us we are full, reports the BBC. One study participant who lost 62 pounds on the drug said "it felt effortless losing weight while on the trial, but now it has gone back to feeling like a constant battle with food" now that the trial is over. Another participant who lost 40 pounds echoes that, saying "I was so sad" once the trial ended and the weight began returning. The impact of taking the drug long-term at the higher dose has yet to be studied. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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