Each week, OMRF Vice President of Clinical Affairs Dr. Judith James opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
I’ve heard a lot about a new generation of weight-loss drugs that have become quite popular. What are they, and how effective are they?
Dr. James Prescribes
Three drugs currently on the market have generated a good deal of “buzz” as weight-loss aids: Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro. But at this time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved only one – Wegovy – to treat obesity.
The FDA has approved all three drugs for Type 2 diabetes. Each is injected and works by improving blood sugar levels and preventing the liver from releasing too much sugar.
A secondary mechanism contributes to weight loss. Specifically, the drugs promote satiety, a feeling of fullness.
Ozempic and Wegovy are actually the same medication, although Wegovy has a higher maximum dose. Mounjaro is in the same class of drugs, but it adds a second compound that appears to strengthen weight-loss effects.
Even before Ozempic reached the market as a diabetes treatment, studies showed that patients often lost weight when using the drug. Consequently, even though it’s not specifically approved for this purpose, some doctors prescribe the drug off-label for obesity, often for patients who haven’t otherwise been able to lose weight or who also have conditions like high blood pressure or prediabetes.
Wegovy has received FDA approval as a treatment for obesity. In studies, it’s shown an average percentage body weight loss of up to 17%.
Mounjaro, currently approved only for Type 2 diabetes, has shown even higher rates of weight loss. In one study, it helped a typical 230-pound person with obesity lose up to 50 pounds. The drug’s maker expects to complete its application to use the drug to treat obesity this spring.
The drugs have shown side effects, most commonly nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation. In addition, these medications are not an obesity cure; many people will regain weight when stopping the medicines, so patients should only use them with the guidance of a clinician and in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise program.
Physicians and regulators will continue to monitor the drugs for their longer-term impacts. With rapidly growing usage, we’ll learn much more about them in years to come.
Do you have a health query for Dr. James? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!