Semaglutide – the drug contained in an anti-obesity drug and hollow A lifestyle intervention led to a “significant decrease” in the body mass index of obese teens after more than a year of weekly treatments, researchers reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Wegovy is currently available by prescription for adults only in the United States. The new study looked at whether it might work for teens.
“Boy, do you ever do that,” said NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar.
The study included 201 obese participants in the United States and other countries aged 12 to 17 years who were randomly assigned to receive either a once-weekly injection of semaglutide or a placebo. The dose of the drug was the same as the approved dose for adults.
Both groups also received a lifestyle intervention consisting of nutrition and physical activity counseling for weight loss before and during the study.
After 16 months of this routine, teens in the semaglutide group lost nearly 15% of their body weight, or about 34 pounds, while children in the control group gained about 5 pounds.
“Not only did they lose weight, but their waist circumference improved, and their cholesterol level also improved,” Azar said. She noted that it was also one of the first studies to look at how teens’ quality of life improved when they lost weight, and “improved dramatically.” “Gaining that extra weight can have a huge impact on their social development.”
The research was funded by drug giant Novo Nordisk, which makes Wegovy.
Emilia Zumo, 17, of Janet, Pennsylvania, was one of the teens enrolled in the study who received semaglutide. She initially weighed 250 pounds, a weight gain associated with PCOS, and she lost more than 70 pounds during the trial.
“I felt better inside my skin, something I’ve never felt before,” She told NBC News.
The researchers wrote that the safety profile of semaglutide among obese adolescents in the trial was consistent with that seen in adults. They noted that the drug “does not appear to affect growth or pubertal development.”
“There are no growth concerns, but with any medication there are side effects. The main side effects of this class of medication are gastrointestinal (GI) – nausea, vomiting and diarrhea,” said Dr. Sylva Arslanian, scientific director of the Pediatric Research Center on Obesity and Metabolism. at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, for TODAY. She is a co-author of the study.
“None of our participants experienced interruptions in school work. But of course, it is very individual.”
Nearly two-thirds of teens who took semaglutide, 62%, experienced GI adverse events, compared to 42% of teens who took a placebo.
Semaglutide falls into a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists and works by mimicking a natural hormone that the body makes when a person eats food. This hormone targets the areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake. Researchers believe that its effect on the brain helps people feel full earlier, so they eat less than they normally would.
It works better for weight loss for obese teens than lifestyle intervention alone for several reasons, including the fact that hunger and satiety are driven by the central nervous system, Arslanian said.
She also noted, “We live in an obese environment where healthy lifestyle choices are not easy to implement…(and) routine daily physical activity has been replaced by screen activities that don’t burn calories.”
Arslanian noted that teens had no difficulty injecting themselves with the drug, “but if you know or have a teen, parents should usually monitor or remind them no matter what life tasks they perform.”
The drug is expensive at about $1,300 per month, and anti-obesity drugs are often not covered by health insurance. Patients must continue to take it until it works, or else they can regain the weight they lost.
When asked if there were any concerns about young patients starting this drug too early in life and taking it indefinitely, Arslanian said, “That’s a very good question and it’s on everyone’s radar. I’m sure we will be able with more scientific advances. to find a solution.”
Semaglutide has been in the news a lot lately. It is also the active ingredient in OlympicIt is a prescription drug for type 2 diabetes and a sister drug for Wegove’s. Ozempic isn’t approved for weight loss, but many people without diabetes use it off-label — the practice of taking a drug approved for unapproved use — and give it credit for their weight-loss success.
Novo Nordisk faces Wegovy shortages due to “unprecedented demand for products and short-term manufacturing issues,” the company noted. On her website. She has asked doctors to defer starting new patients on the drug for now, but said she is on track to have all strengths of the dosing available in the United States at the end of this year.
Azar said Food and Drug Administration approval for the use of semaglutide for weight loss in obese teens may come as early as 2023.
This article was originally published TODAY.com