In a new study, researchers found that the injectable anti-obesity medication, semaglutide, can lead to large weight loss.
The finding establishes the reliability and robustness of this new drug.
With obesity affecting more than 40% of American adults, the study could have a major impact on weight management in primary care and other settings.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Pennsylvania.
The 68-week study was conducted at 41 sites in the United States from August 2018 to April 2020.
It was designed to boost total weight loss with semaglutide by combining the medication with a more intensive diet and physical activity program.
All participants received 30 sessions of intensive behavioral therapy consisting of diet and physical activity counseling, which was combined with an initial 8-week, 1000-1200 kcal/day meal-replacement diet, consisting of shakes, meal bars, and prepared entrees.
The 611 participants had an average starting weight of 233 pounds with a body mass index of 38 kg/m2.
The participants taking semaglutide were given a 2.4 mg dose once weekly.
After 68 weeks of treatment, the semaglutide group lost an average of 16% of body weight, equal to 37 pounds, compared with 5.7%, 14 pounds for those assigned to intensive behavioral therapy combined with placebo.
Substantially greater proportions of semaglutide-treated participants (75%, compared with placebo (27%), achieved weight losses of 10% or more of body weight.
The larger weight losses achieved with semaglutide than with placebo were linked to greater improvements in heart-metabolic risk factors, including changes in waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, hemoglobin A1c, and triglycerides.
The team says these metabolic benefits and marked improvements in risk factors hold great promise for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and heart 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.
Gastrointestinal side effects were reported by 83% of semaglutide participants and included mild-to-moderate nausea and diarrhea that generally improved over time, without the need to discontinue the drug.
One author of the study is Thomas Wadden, PhD, a professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry.