Obesity is a chronic disease
It is estimated that nearly 70% of American adults are obese. Obese people are at a higher risk of diseases like stroke, heart attack, diabetes, cancer, etc. One can get obese due to many reasons. Hormones, metabolism rate, and eating patterns can impact a person’s body weight. Genetic differences have an influence on body weight as well. In some cases, a person’s body retains more fat compared to other people. Hence, obesity is a complex issue and should be dealt with seriously. Reducing your calorie intake and burning more calories may not always be effective. To deal with such a complex issue, patients can consider drug treatment.
On 04 June 2021, FDA approved a new drug treatment for battling weight loss. The drug is called Wegovy.
John Sharretts, M.D., deputy director of the Division of Diabetes, Lipid Disorders, and Obesity in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said, “Today’s approval offers adults with obesity or overweight a beneficial new treatment option to incorporate into a weight management program,”. He further added, “FDA remains committed to facilitating the development and approval of additional safe and effective therapies for adults with obesity or overweight.”
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What is Semaglutide and Wegovy?
FDA believes that the recently approved drug can play a crucial role in the battle against obesity. Although Semaglutide (brand name Wegovy), manufactured by Novo Nordisk, has been recently approved, it is not actually a new drug. It has been used by Performance Medicine for treating diabetes in the form of Ozempic. However, doctors have used Ozempic off-label for weight loss as well.
Obesity is caused by metabolic syndrome and prediabetes in most cases. Ozempic is used for treating diabetes. The FDA has approved the same drug for weight loss but the dosage and name are different. The weight loss drug is called Wegovy. Many experts believe that this drug will prove to be very effective in tackling obesity in the country. This is because Wegovy focuses on the gut instead of the brain. It is injected only once a week and meant for adults with obesity (BMI ≥30) or overweight (BMI ≥27) with other weight-related issues. People who fail to lose weight by other means will get a metabolic advantage with this drug.
How does Wegovy (Ozempic) work?
Wegovy is from the class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. A peptide is a hormone secreted by your gut. It regulates the body’s metabolism rate and affects the secretion of insulin and glucagon in the body. These are pancreas-secreted hormones. Doctors advise patients to take Wegovy once a week with a reduced calorie diet and exercise. Initially, they are given a small dose. This is crucial to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal side effects. However, the dosage is increased every week by 2.4 milligrams over a period of 4 to 5 months.
There are four ways Wegovy works. Here is how:
- The drug makes you feel full for longer hours by slowing down gastric emptying.
- The drug facilitates the production of insulin in your body. Insulin is responsible for transporting intracellular glucose to many cells and tissues such as the liver and muscle tissue.
- The drug decreases the production of glucagon in the body. It is secreted by the pancreas when a person does not eat or his/her blood sugar level is low. This hormone makes the liver produce glucose. By reducing the production of glucagon, you can decrease the production of glucose and keep the blood sugar level under check. Hence, it is very effective against diabetes.
- The drug helps in reducing weight by reducing your appetite as well.
Although the drug has proved to be quite successful, there are a few drawbacks as well. You may consider avoiding the drug if you have pancreatitis. In very few cases, there is a chance of developing medullary cancer of the thyroid and MEN syndrome 2. Some people can experience nausea after taking Wegovy but that is not a big issue. It can be avoided by starting with a small dose and increasing it slowly. Diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting, and headache are a few other health issues people can experience. Dr. Henry will clearly explain all the details about the drug before starting the treatment.
It is estimated that the drug can help to lose as much as 15% of your body weight. In some cases, the drug helped to lose up to 20% of the total body weight. Although the percentage may appear small, losing this much weight can hugely impact day-to-day life. Wegovy will improve your blood sugar levels, control diabetes, regulate blood pressure, relieve pain from the knees and back, and facilitate your brain functioning.
Four trials were held to study the effects of the drug. Each of them lasted 68 weeks. While 2,600 patients were given Wegovy, 1,500 patients received a placebo. After one trial, it was found that the group that received Wegovy lost around 14% of their body weight. On the other hand, the group of people who received the placebo lost only 2% of their body weight on average.
According to Dr. Robert Kushner, a medicine and medical education professor at Northwestern University and the top investigator for the Novo Nordisk-funded phase 3 clinical trial, no other medicine has been so effective in facilitating weight loss in the past. Doctors should use this newly approved drug for treating obesity.
Will your insurance cover it?
Irrespective of how effective the drug may be, it will not be able to play a crucial role in the battle against obesity if insurance companies do not start approving them. Insurance companies tend to take time before endorsing any new drug. Since Semaglutide: Wegovy has been approved recently, the chances are that your insurance policy probably does not cover it. Consult your insurance policy provider before making any decision.
Note: Many insurance companies cover Ozempic.