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Novo Nordisk obesity drug shows added benefits

Published on 09/03/15 at 10:45am
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New research by Novo Nordisk has suggested that its obesity drug Saxenda can help improve several other weight-related problems as a result of weight reduction.

In its SCALE trial, ‘responder’ patients (those who lost at least 5% of their body weight over 56 weeks) in both the Saxenda (liraglutide) and placebo groups showed greater improvements in blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and physical health scores compared to non-responders (those who lost less than 5% of their weight).

The patients were taking the drugs in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, and as these improvements were noted in both the Saxenda and the placebo group it is likely that the main factor is weight loss in general – although the Saxenda patients did show more significant improvements that the placebo takers.

“These are important findings as they show that for adults with obesity or who are overweight with comorbidities, losing 5% to 10% of their body weight can help improve comorbidities, including fasting plasma glucose and blood pressure,” says Dr Patrick O’Neil, clinical trial investigator for the study.

In the trial, 63.2% of patients were considered to have responded to the treatment by achieving a weight reduction of 5% or higher, compared with 27.1% of those taking a placebo. Of those patients, the average weight loss in the Saxenda group was 11.7%, only slightly higher than the average of 10% for the placebo group.

Saxenda was approved by the FDA in December last year for obese patients who have at least one other weight-related condition such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.

This approval was essentially a new indication for the Novo Nordisk’s type 2 diabetes treatment Victoza, which consists of a lower dose of the same ingredient.

It was one of only a few new obesity pills to be approved in the US in the last few years, the others inducing Orexigen’s Contrave in 2014, and Vivus’ Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate) and Arena Pharmaceuticals’ Belviq (lorcaserin) in 2012. Prior to that, the last obesity treatment to be approved in the country was Roche’s Xenical (orlistat) in 1999.

All of these medicines have suffered a difficult path on the road to approval, with a number of FDA rejections and concerns from doctors over safety, notably the effect of these medicines on the heart. Saxenda’s previous use as a diabetes treatment, however, means that analysts have more confidence in its market potential, and have predicted that it could generate $1 billion in revenue for Novo Nordisk.

The EMA gave Saxenda the green light in January, and Novo Nordisk expects to launch it in several European markets during 2015 and 2016.

George Underwood

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