A new weight-loss shot is being hailed as a “game changer” — with the potential to cut diabetes risk by 50% and “fight obesity as a disease” for the first time, according to a new study.
The research, conducted by the University of Alabama, found that weekly jabs of the drug semaglutide in overweight and obese research participants caused an average weight loss of 37 pounds.
“We have not seen this degree of weight loss with any previous medication,” said lead study author Dr. Timothy Garvey in a statement. “More than 50% of trial participants are losing 15% of their body weight, and anywhere between a third and 40% of participants are losing 20% of their body weight.”
The research results are “beginning to close the gap with bariatric surgery” in terms of being “sufficient to treat or prevent a broad array of obesity complications that impair health and quality of life,” according to Garvey, who called it a “game changer in obesity medicine” with the potential to “treat obesity as a disease.”
This is good news for Americans fighting a losing battle with fat: Between 1960 and 2010, prevalence of adult obesity in the United States almost tripled, to 36% from 13%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Many people among the lay public and many health-care professionals as well think about obesity primarily as a lifestyle choice, even today, despite our scientific understanding of obesity as a disease,” Garvey said. “That’s why I think these trials are important.”
The Semaglutide Treatment Effect in People with Obesity trials, known as STEP, studied patients who received semaglutide compared to those who received a placebo dose.
Researchers administered a dose of 2.4 milligrams to 1,961 patients in the first trial and 803 in the second. In addition, scientists used a cardiometabolic disease staging formula to predict the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes.
In the first trial, the 10-year risk score of people who received the drug fell by 61%, while participants given the placebo pills only decreased their risk score by 13%.
While the formula focused on diabetes, the study authors found the drug could also prevent and treat cardiovascular disease and its related complications like osteoarthritis and sleep apnea.
“That means treating and preventing the consequences and complications of their obesity that are responsible for impairing health: preventing progression to diabetes, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and things like that,” Garvey said. “If approved, semaglutide 2.4 milligrams has the potential to really change the way we think about treating this disease of obesity.”
Semaglutide was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration at the lower dosage of 1 milligram known as the brand name Ozempic, but the 2.4 milligram dose showed more promising results — and pharmaceutical manufacturer Novo Nordisk scored FDA approval last year. At the time, it came with a price tag of around $1,627 a month before insurance.