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FDA approves new obesity drug for long-term weight management

Doctors say it should be used along with a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity. It is to be injected under the skin once-weekly.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a new weight loss drug that Scripps Clinic endocrinologist Ken Fujioka calls a "game changer" in the fight to get rid of significant pounds and keep them off long term.

Doctor Fujioka said Wegovy is part of an exciting new class of therapies now being developed that promise to revolutionize the way overweight and obese patients are treated.

"In clinical trials, patients receiving the weekly injection had an average weight loss of 15% and steadily lost weight over the 16-month study period. Importantly, these results are close to those for patients who have bariatric surgery, and they are far better than those seen from other weight loss drugs currently on the market," Fujioka said.

Novo Nordisk’s obesity drug Wegovy (semaglutide) is the first approved drug for chronic weight management in adults with general obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol, since 2014.  

Doctors say it should be used along with a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity.  

What is Wegovy?

Wegovy is a synthesized version of a gut hormone that curbs appetite. It is to be injected under the skin once-weekly.

The drug is indicated for chronic weight management in patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 kg/m2 or greater who have at least one weight-related ailment or in patients with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or greater.

Wegovy works by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake, according to the FDA.

Credit: Novo Nordisk

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Health officials say having obesity or being overweight is a serious health issue associated with some leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and is linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. 

According to the FDA, approximately 70% of American adults are overweight or suffer from obesity. Doctors say losing 5% to 10% of body weight through diet and exercise has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in adult patients with obesity or those overweight.

Scripps doctors said they will start writing prescriptions for Wegovy later this week.

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