FDA Approves Saxenda (liraglutide) for Obesity in Teens

Late on Friday, Novo Nordisk announced FDA approval for Saxenda (liraglutide 3mg) to treat obesity in teens. This marks the second such drug approved in for youth in little more than a week. Setmelanotide received approval last week for children as young as six. Make no mistake about it, we are making progress in expanding the options for young people with obesity.

A Big Year for Kids with Obesity

When 2020 began, we noted that this would be a big year for serious pediatric obesity care. Then came the new coronavirus.

So no doubt, 2020 will go down in history as the year of terrible pandemic. However, it has also been a year of considerable progress for youth and families dealing with the chronic disease of obesity.

In May, the New England Journal of Medicine published the pivotal study of Saxenda for obesity in teens. Most youth, even with severe obesity, receive little more than coaching to eat less and move more. If they’re lucky, they might get intensive behavioral support to help them cope with the physiology that is driving their bodies to store an excess of fat that is harming their health.

So the study of Saxenda compared intensive behavioral support alone to all that support plus Saxenda. It was randomized and placebo-controlled. The result was striking. Most of the youth in the control group at the end of a year had a higher BMI than when they started – despite all that behavioral support. But in the Saxenda group, most had a lower BMI at the end of a year. In fact, more than twice as many subjects on Saxenda had a five percent reduction in BMI than on placebo. A ten percent reduction was three times more likely with Saxenda.

Much More Work to Do

This is only one step toward better care for youth with obesity. It’s hardly a miracle. Some kids will have really impressive responses to Saxenda. Most will have some response. But some will get no benefit. Obesity is a relentless, chronic condition that chips away at a young person’s health for a lifetime.

Having more options is good. Nevertheless, the options are still too few. And the systems for providing care are totally inadequate to meet the need. Fewer than 50 comprehensive centers for treating childhood obesity exist in the U.S. Compare than number of 50 centers to the five million kids who have severe obesity, and it’s pretty obvious that health systems are not meeting the need.

So most parents and most kids get little real help with obesity. We can do better than this.

Click here for more on the approval, here for the updated prescribing information for Saxenda, and here for further perspective.

Youth Holding an Arrow, painting by Giorgione / WikiArt

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December 5, 2020

One Response to “FDA Approves Saxenda (liraglutide) for Obesity in Teens”

  1. December 05, 2020 at 9:54 pm, Allen Browne said:


    And now down to the younger children with obesity!