If your New Year's resolution is to lose weight this year, you could soon take a pill to help you in your quest to drop those pounds and live a healthier life. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a new drug designed to help people lose weight and fight the obesity epidemic. And while it started as a treatment for another ailment, this new drug could spell millions of dollars for the company and thousands of pounds off of consumers, as well.
The daily injectable drug, liraglutide, is part of a new class of diabetes medicines that prompt the pancreas to make extra insulin after meals. Novo Nordisk first obtained approval to sell liraglutide five years ago as a diabetes therapy under the brand name Victoza. Now, a higher-dose prescription product known as Saxenda, has been approved and is specifically designed for weight loss in obese patients and in overweight adults, who have at least one weight-related problem such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
Liraglutide not only increases insulin production, but also works in the digestive system and in the brain to increase the feeling of fullness, resulting in patients eating less.
"Approximately 80 million people are suffering with obesity," says Cherie Vaz, an endocrinologist at Temple University School of Medicine. "In general, diet drugs have modest effectiveness, but you want to be able to offer patients everything you can."
The FDA considers a weight loss drug effective if, with diet and exercise, it enables patients to achieve a five percent weight loss. That figure is the minimum needed to spark health improvements, such as lowering blood pressure. However, obese patients are at least 30 percent overweight, which could lead to some disappointment with the new drug.
To determine the efficacys of the drug, Novo Nordisk conducted a clinical trial of more than 3,700 patients. Of these patients, 64 percent that took Saxenda for a year lost at least five percent of their weight.
Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company with U.S. headquarters in Princeton, N.J., is currently working with insurers to determine costs and coverage for the drug and had not set a price for Saxenda as of yet. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States with more than one-third of the population considered obese. Obesity causes many other conditions such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes and was estimated to cost approximately $147 billion in 2008.
This new drug is yet another in the fight against obesity rates in the U.S., and could potentially help many adults lose the weight they want, especially if they are suffering from other weight-related illnesses. However, it is not a magic cure for obesity and must be taken along with proper diet and exercise to increase its chances of efficacy.