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Diabetes Drug May Spur Weight Loss in Obese People

One-third who took Victoza lost 10 percent of body weight, researchers say

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A higher dose of the diabetes drug liraglutide (Victoza) may help obese people without the disease lose weight, a new study suggests.

In this test of its effectiveness as a diet aid, people taking liraglutide for over a year lost an average of 8 percent of their body weight, compared with 2.6 percent shed by those taking a placebo (dummy drug), researchers found.

Victoza/liraglutide is typically given in 1.2 milligram and 1.8 milligram doses as a diabetes treatment. In the new study, aimed at seeing if the medicine might help curb obesity, the drug's dose was upped to 3 milligrams.

"Liraglutide, an injection treatment already approved for diabetes treatment, can help reduce body weight in people with obesity when used at a higher dose than is usually used in diabetes," said lead researcher Dr. John Wilding, head of the department of obesity and endocrinology at the University of Liverpool in England.

"These results suggest liraglutide is effective and overall well-tolerated for obesity treatment," he said.

Although this study didn't compare Victoza with other weight loss drugs, Wilding said that a previous study showed Victoza could produce about twice as much weight loss as another drug, orlistat (Xenical).

Xenical works by reducing the amount of fat the intestines can absorb. People taking Xenical lose an average of five to seven pounds, studies have shown.

Victoza works by lowering blood sugar.

The results of the study were scheduled for presentation Thursday at the European Congress on Obesity in Sofia, Bulgaria. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn., wasn't surprised by the findings. "A number of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes tend to produce weight loss as one of their effects," said Katz, who was not involved in the study.

This is predictable because the insulin resistance that precedes and often accompanies type 2 diabetes results in frequent hunger and weight gain. Lowering blood sugar results in weight loss, he said.

Whether Victoza improves long-term weight management or leads to better health outcomes over years when used for weight loss is unknown, he said.

"But for now, Victoza takes its place alongside other drugs studied initially for diabetes, but [found to be] potentially useful for weight loss as well," Katz said.

"Such drugs will never replace diet and physical activity, but may prove a reasonable addition to lifestyle intervention in some patients," Katz added.

For the study, Wilding and colleagues randomly selected more than 3,700 obese and overweight adults to take daily injections of Victoza or a placebo. The participants' average age was 45.

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