Semaglutide, sold under the brand name Ozempic, could be an effective weight loss medication.
It has been sold in the U.S as an anti-diabetic medication, but the drug appears to have a remarkable weight loss effect when combined with intensive behavioral therapy (IBT) and a low-calorie diet.
A 68 week weight loss trial found that injection of 2.4 mg of semaglutide per week along with a low-calorie diet for the first 8 weeks and 30 sessions of IBT led to obese patients losing 16 percent of their weight.
This is a phase 3 clinical trial confirming the large weight loss effect by semaglutide when given as an anti-obesity medication to patients.
Participants, on average, lost over 15 kg and more than 30 percent of people lost one-fifth of their weight — an equivalent of 20 percent.
With obesity approaching 50 percent of the U.S. adult population, these findings on weight management could improve many people’s lives if followed correctly by the health care system.
For the recent study, 611 obese adults with an average weight of 233 pounds (106 kg) and a body mass index (BMI) of 38 took a 68-week weight loss treatment.
At the end of the study period, participants who received weekly a 2.4 mg dose of semaglutide along with a low-calorie diet plus IBT lost 17 kg while those who received a low-calorie diet plus IBT but no drug lost only 6 kg.
The low-calorie diet plan consisted of meal-replacement foods (shakes, bars, and prepared meals) providing 1,000 to 1,200 kcal a day.
Professor Thomas Wadden, the study’s first author, said:
“We wanted to induce a large weight loss with rigorous behavioral therapy and see how much additional weight loss semaglutide could add.
These are remarkable weight losses, particularly the one third of participants who lost 20 percent of baseline weight, a reduction that approaches that achieved with sleeve gastrectomy, a widely used bariatric surgery procedure.”
The semaglutide group who had greater weight loss also saw more improvement in their cardiometabolic health, such as reduced blood pressure, triglycerides, blood sugar levels, and waist circumference.
Professor Timothy Garvey, study co-author, said:
“These metabolic benefits and marked improvements in risk factors hold great promise for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The unprecedented degree of weight loss is also sufficient to prevent and treat other complications of obesity including osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”
The higher dose of semaglutide at 2.4 mg seems to influence the brain’s appetite centre by reducing hunger and increasing the feeling of fullness consequently leading to eating less and so weight loss.
The study was published in the JAMA (Wadden et al., 2021).