Diabetes Drug Promotes Weight Loss
Liraglutide Not Yet Approved in U.S.
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 22, 2009 -- The injectable diabetes drug liraglutide appears to help
obese people who do not have diabetes shed extra pounds, but larger studies are
needed to prove its safety and effectiveness for weight loss, researchers
Liraglutide has been approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in
Europe, but it is not yet approved for use in the United States.
In earlier studies, diabetes patients who received once-daily injections of
the drug lost weight and showed improvements in blood sugar.
In the newly published study, overweight people without diabetes who
received daily injections of liraglutide lost more weight than patients treated
with the oral weight loss drug orlistat, sold as Xenical and Alli in the
Liraglutide belongs to the same class of drugs as the diabetes treatment
Byetta, which has also been shown to promote weight loss.
The mechanism by which the drugs affect weight is not completely understood,
but they are believed to suppress appetite and delay the movement of food from
the stomach to the small intestine. The thinking is that this helps people feel
full longer after eating.
Liraglutide and Weight Loss
The 20-week weight loss study included 564 obese people with body mass
indexes (BMI) of between 30 and 40, treated at 19 sites throughout Europe.
Participants received either daily injections of one of four doses of
liraglutide, injections of an inactive placebo, or the weight loss drug
orlistat taken orally three times a day.
All the study participants followed calorie-restricted diets, which
contained about 500 fewer calories a day than they needed to maintain their
weight. They also increased their physical activity.
By the end of the study, the liraglutide-treated patients had lost
significantly more weight than either the placebo-treated patients or those who
took the oral weight loss drug.
Orlistat-treated patients lost an average of 9 pounds during the 20-week
study, compared to a weight loss of 10.5 pounds in patients on the lowest dose
of liraglutide (1.2 milligrams a day).
Patients treated with the highest dose of the liraglutide (3 milligrams
daily) lost the most weight, averaging nearly 16 pounds. These patients also
had the most nausea and vomiting, with 3.5% of participants withdrawing from
the study as a result of these side effects.
Placebo-treated patients lost the least amount of weight -- about 6
The study was paid for by liraglutide manufacturer Novo Nordisk, which has
also provided independent financial support to several study authors.
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.