Diabetes Drug Can Now Be Used to Treat Obesity

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Researchers say liraglutide, which is sold as both Victoza and now Saxenda, can be used to help with weight loss as well as type 2 diabetes.

More than one-third of the United States’ population qualifies as “obese.”

That means the pursuit for a pharmaceutical weight loss drug has only become more intense.

And there’s some encouraging news on this front.

A recently published study from the Mayo Clinic reports that a pharmaceutical weight loss drug already exists and has proven to be effective, even in those who are obese.

Liraglutide is a prescription medication that is self-administered via injection once per day.

It was originally created to treat type 2 diabetes under the brand name Victoza, manufactured by Novo Nordisk.

“Our paper shows that liraglutide, administered for 3 months at the approved dose of 3 milligrams per day, was associated with an average weight loss of 12 pounds compared to an average 6.6-pound weight loss for patients receiving a placebo,” explained Dr. Michael Camilleri, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic and a senior author of the study.

In order to prescribe this medication specifically for weight loss, healthcare providers encountered an obstacle.

Insurance companies would only cover Victoza for people with an indication of diabetes or prediabetes.

Being obese does not necessarily mean a person has diabetes, so there’s a hurdle to jump in order to prescribe the drug for weight loss.

Consequently, Novo Nordisk rebranded liraglutide as Saxenda and categorized it as a weight loss drug, resulting in the same drug with two different names and with two primary purposes.

And for many patients, it works.

“Liraglutide appears to be very effective in inducing weight loss over three months of treatment,” Camilleri told Healthline.

How drug helps you lose weight

Essentially, liraglutide works like the hormone GLP-1, which is released from the small intestine during and after meals.

This is the framework for many other diabetes medications, such as exenatide (Byetta/Bydureon), lixisenatide (Lyxumia), albiglutide (Tanzeum), and dulaglutide (Trulicity).

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