More Steady Progress on Obesity Drugs

This past week saw three bits of steady progress on the new generation of obesity drugs: lorcaserin, liraglutide, and semaglutide. It’s all movement in the right direction.

Lorcaserin Cardiovascular Outcomes Study Progressing Nicely

A huge cardiovascular outcomes study is underway with 12,000 patients receiving either lorcaserin (Belviq) or a placebo. The goal is to learn whether lorcaserin has any effect — good or bad — on the risk of major heart problems. These are events like a heart attack, stroke, or even death. The base case assumption is no effect. Good news would be that lorcaserin prevents such outcomes. Bad news would be that it raises the risk of them.

This week the news is that an independent safety board took a peek at the data and saw nothing to cause concern. That means no hint of any bad news that would require stopping the study. So the study will continue to its planned completion date in 2018.

Liraglutide Wins Endorsement for Reducing Heart Risk in Type 2 Diabetes

Also last week, liraglutide (Victoza) won a lopsided vote (17-2) in favor of telling doctors that liraglutide can cut the risk of heart attacks and other major heart problems for patients with type 2 diabetes. Liraglutide works as an obesity drug in higher doses, where it goes by the brand name of Saxenda. While this bit of news doesn’t directly apply to Saxenda, it does count as a reassurance of safety.

When FDA approved Saxenda, the agency told Novo Nordisk that the study in diabetes for liraglutide would be a sufficient assurance of cardiovascular safety.

Impressive Topline Results for Semaglutide

The third and final bit of good news for obesity drugs from the last week involves semaglutide. It’s the next generation GLP-1 agonist, being developed as a new and improved version of liraglutide for both type 2 diabetes and obesity. In the first efficacy study for obesity with semaglutide, patients lost 13.8% of their body weight. People on placebo lost only 2.3%. Both groups received counseling on diet and exercise as well.

These are impressive numbers, but they are preliminary. If they hold up in peer review and future studies confirm them, Novo Nordisk will have an excellent new option for treating obesity.

Click here for more on the lorcaserin study, here for more on liraglutide, and here for more on semaglutide.

Font of Progress, photograph © Vitorcius / flickr

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June 25, 2017