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New Diabetes Drug Helps Obese Adults With Weight Loss


A diabetes drug currently in clinical trials may have the added benefit of helping obese adults lose weight.

A study in the Lancet found that the injectable medication liraglutide, brand name Victoza, helped participants lose an average of 4.8 kilograms (10.6 pounds) with a 1.2-milligram dose, the lowest dosage available. Those who received higher doses lost more weight, up to 7.2 kilograms (15.8 pounds) with the highest dose given. Liraglutide also lowered blood pressure at all dose levels.

The study included 564 obese European adults without clinical diabetes who were randomly assigned to one of five groups for a period of 20 weeks. Four groups received differing dosages of liraglutide (1.2, 1.8, 2.4, and 3.0 milligrams). One group received the weight loss medication orlistat, found in the currently available medications Xenical and Alli. The control group received a placebo.

In addition to the medication, participants increased physical activity and followed a calorie-restricted diet.

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Liraglutide works by mimicking a hormone called GLP-1 which is released into the small intestine after eating. It tells the body to release more insulin to lower blood sugar levels, and also signals the brain to stop eating. The naturally occurring hormone is typically eliminated from the bloodstream within minutes, but liraglutide contains a molecule to make it more resistant and the effects last for a full day.

After the completion of the study, researchers tracked the participants for two years and found that those on liraglutide kept the weight off.

Until this study, liraglutide had only been tested for its anti-glycemic action in people with type 2 diabetes. A third of the patients in the Lancet study were considered “pre-diabetic”, meaning blood sugar levels were elevated but not enough to qualify for clinical diabetes. At the higher doses, liraglutide reduced blood sugar to normal in 84 to 95% of participants.

The most common side effect of the medication was nausea and vomiting. This generally occurred during the first month of the study. No other serious side effects were observed.

Liraglutide is being developed by Novo Nordisk and is currently in phase II trials in the United States. It has been approved for diabetes treatment in Europe.

"Effects of liraglutide in the treatment of obesity: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study"
Arne Astrup, Stephan Rössner, Luc Van Gaal, Aila Rissanen, Leo Niskanen, Mazin Al Hakim, Jesper Madsen, Mads F Rasmussen, Michael E J Lean, on behalf of the NN8022-1807 Study Group
Lancet, online October 23, 2009