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Diabetes Drug Promotes Weight Loss

Liraglutide Not Yet Approved in U.S.
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Weight Loss ‘Shots’?

Researchers say longer studies will be needed to determine the drug’s long-term risk-benefit profile as a weight loss treatment.

Novo Nordisk Chief Science Officer Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen tells WebMD the company will decide whether to go ahead with larger studies once the FDA decides whether or not to approve liraglutide for use as a diabetes treatment in the U.S.

That decision is expected by the end of the year.

“The study published today in Lancet is encouraging, but it is important to stress that this is only phase II data,” Thomsen says.

Weight loss researcher George A. Bray, MD, tells WebMD that it remains to be seen if people will embrace a weight loss drug that they have to inject, even if it proves to be more effective than approved oral treatments.

Patients who take Byetta inject the drug twice a day; liraglutide is given once a day.

“My guess is that there will be much longer acting versions of both these drugs in the future that will require much less frequent injections,” Bray says. “But it still isn’t clear if people who aren’t used to injections will take shots to lose weight.”

Novo Nordisk is now testing a drug similar to liraglutide that is injected once a week instead of once a day.

Bray would also like to see studies to determine if combining Byetta or liraglutide with approved weight loss drugs leads to bigger weight loss than has been reported with any of the drugs alone.

“It is clear that (Byetta and liraglutide) promote weight loss in diabetes patients,” he says. “But their safety and usefulness for weight loss in people without diabetes remains to be proven.”

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