Recent developments in the field of medicine have sparked optimism in the ongoing battle against obesity and diabetes. A groundbreaking study conducted by drugmaker Novo Nordisk in August 2023 demonstrated that weight loss drugs may offer medical benefits beyond simply shedding pounds. Specifically, the popular obesity drug Wegovy reduces the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke, by 20%, alongside cancer and diabetes.
With nearly half of adults in the U.S. having obesity, this discovery marks a significant turning point in the fight against some of the most prevalent health challenges of our time. In this article, we take a closer look into how new and effective treatments for obesity and diabetes can reduce the burden of these diseases on individuals and healthcare systems.
Comparing weight loss drugs
The pharmaceutical industry is witnessing a flurry of activity in the realm of weight management medications. CNBC reported in June 2023 that the high-dose experimental obesity pill of Novo Nordisk has shown impressive results in clinical trials. Using the active ingredient semaglutide, this oral medication has helped overweight or obese adults lose around 15% of their body weight.
Novo Nordisk received FDA approval for the groundbreaking drug Ozempic in 2017, but only as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. In 2021, Wegovy was approved for treating obesity, adding to the array of options available for individuals struggling with their weight. This has encouraged discussion in the medical field on the merits of Saxenda vs Wegovy. Saxenda, based on the active ingredient liraglutide, was the first GLP-1 agonist approved for obesity treatment in 2014 and is administered daily.
As a more recent entrant, Wegovy includes the convenience of a weekly administration and has demonstrated significant weight loss benefits, with participants experiencing up to 15.8% weight loss. However, the choice among these drugs will fall on factors like patient preference, insurance coverage, and medical history.
New medications, new hope
Wegovy was initially designed to treat type 2 diabetes. Our previous post on Prediabetes elaborated that prediabetes, where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes, is preventable through a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and weight loss. Weight loss is crucial in managing both obesity and type 2 diabetes, as it can improve insulin sensitivity and overall metabolic health. The approval of Wegovy as a treatment for obesity, therefore, serves as a ray of optimism in the medical field. It’s proof that there are possibilities for leveraging existing medications to combat both conditions.
In fact, Mounjaro or tirzepatide, approved for type 2 diabetes, is already expected to gain FDA approval for obesity treatment in 2023. This will provide a dual mechanism of action by targeting both GLP-1 and GIP receptors. Initial tests already show that individuals can lose more than 20% of their body weight when on Mounjaro.
Challenges in the road ahead
Major pharmaceutical distributors, such as AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, have been experiencing significant revenue gains due to the surging popularity of weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy. Morgan Stanley analysts forecast the global anti-obesity market to be worth $77 billion by 2030. While these medications are driving substantial revenue growth, the logistics of handling and distributing refrigerated medications have posed challenges to profit margins. This has led to a shorter supply of medication, which may drive up prices in the market for weight loss drugs.
Nevertheless, the increasing demand for these drugs underscores their importance in the battle against obesity. As research, legislation, and innovative medications continue to reshape the landscape, individuals struggling with obesity and diabetes may find new avenues of support and treatment. It is essential to remember that medication is most effective when combined with healthy lifestyle habits, including balanced nutrition, regular physical activity, quality sleep, and stress management. With a holistic approach, individuals affected by obesity and diabetes can anticipate healthier and more vibrant lives.