Daily injection of the diabetes medicine liraglutide (brand name Victoza for diabetes, Saxenda for weight loss), along with a healthful diet and exercise, may help overweight and obese people with Type 2 diabetes shed pounds, according to new research out of the University of Leicester. Approximately 28 million people in the United States are living with Type 2 diabetes.
Liraglutide is a member of a class of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists. These medicines work by stimulating the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas to release insulin in response to high blood glucose levels. Because of their glucose-dependent mechanism of action, drugs of this class are associated with a low rate of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). For the treatment of diabetes, the medicine is prescribed in doses of 1.2 milligrams and 1.8 milligrams daily.
Losing just 5% to 10% of body weight can help improve health markers such as blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. To investigate the safety and effectiveness of liraglutide, which has been associated in previous trials with weight reduction, for weight loss in overweight and obese people with Type 2 diabetes, researchers randomly assigned 846 people fitting this profile to either once-daily injections of liraglutide 3.0 milligrams, once-daily injections of liraglutide 1.8 milligrams, or placebo (inactive treatment) for 56 weeks. In addition to receiving the assigned therapy, participants were also instructed to increase their physical activity and follow a reduced-calorie diet. An additional 12-week follow-up period was included in the study to evaluate any effects from stopping the treatment.
Weight loss was found to be greater in those taking liraglutide than placebo, with people receiving the 3.0-milligram dose of the medicine losing an average of 14.1 pounds (6% of body weight), those receiving the 1.8-milligram dose losing an average of 11 pounds (4.7% of body weight), and those receiving placebo losing only an average of 4.8 pounds (2% of body weight). Participants regained weight after the medicine was discontinued, indicating that sustained use is necessary to maintain the weight-loss effects.
Although gastrointestinal disorders were more common in the participants receiving the higher dose of the medicine, there were no reports of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and the drug was generally well tolerated.
“Weight loss is especially challenging for individuals with Type 2 diabetes, who often experience a reduced response to weight-loss pharmacotherapies compared with individuals without diabetes,” notes study author Melanie J. Davies, MD. “The findings from this study are significant because they represent a breakthrough in weight-loss treatment, paving the way to improved glycemic control.”
The researchers note that additional studies are necessary to evaluate the long-term effectiveness and safety of liraglutide for weight loss in Type 2 diabetes.
For more information, read the article “Drug helps patients with diabetes lose weight” or see the study’s abstract in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And for more information about losing weight with diabetes, see the article “Strategies for Weight Management,” by clinical psychologist Ann Goebel-Fabbri.
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