Weight-loss drugs have become a hot topic as public heath authorities and pharmaceutical companies seek to find solutions to the growing global obesity epidemic.
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An oral drug made by Pfizer causes a similar amount of weight loss as rival Novo Nordisk‘s blockbuster injection Ozempic, according to a peer-reviewed study of phase 2 clinical trial results released Monday.
The results were presented at a medical conference late last year, and did not compare Pfizer’s drug with Ozempic or other weight loss medications. JAMA Network only now is releasing a peer-reviewed study.
Pfizer’s trial followed 411 adults with Type 2 diabetes who either took the company’s pill, danuglipron, twice a day or a placebo.
Body weight was “statistically significantly reduced” after patients took either 120-milligram or 80-milligram versions of danuglipron for 16 weeks, the study found.
Patients who took a 120-milligram version lost around 10 pounds on average over that time period, the study found.
Pfizer’s drug could offer an advantage as an oral treatment option rather than a frequent injection.
The study results also suggest danuglipron may be as effective for weight loss as Ozempic, though there are stark differences in dosage levels.
A phase 3 clinical trial on Ozempic found that adults who took a 1-milligram version of the injection lost around 9.9 pounds on average over 30 weeks. Patients take that shot once a week.
Ozempic is authorized in the U.S. to treat diabetes and is now being used off-label for weight loss.
Novo Nordisk’s other drug, Wegovy, is the same medication, but it is approved for “chronic weight management.”
A phase 3 clinical trial on Wegovy found that adults who took a 2.4-milligram version of the injection each week lost about 33 pounds on average over 68 weeks.
Danuglipron, Ozempic and Wegovy are part of a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists.
They mimic a hormone produced in the gut called GLP-1, which signals to the brain when a person is full.
The drugs can also help people manage Type 2 diabetes because they encourage insulin release from the pancreas, lowering blood sugar levels.
New York-based Pfizer is the latest pharmaceutical company to dip into the blockbuster weight loss drug market.
Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy catapulted to the national spotlight in recent years for being weight loss “miracles.”
Hollywood celebrities, social media influencers and billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk have reportedly used the popular injections to get rid of unwanted weight.
But experts say the medicines may further perpetuate a dangerous diet culture that idealizes weight loss and thinness.
Some patients who stop taking the drugs also complain about a weight rebound that is difficult to control.
More than 2 in 5 adults have obesity, according to the National Institutes of Health. About 1 in 11 adults have severe obesity.
Clarification: This article’s headline has been updated to remove a reference to evidence showing that Pfizer’s drug might work more quickly than Ozempic. While the amount of weight loss from Pfizer’s drug occurred in roughly half of the time for the same amount of weight seen with Ozempic, the dosage of Pfizer’s drug was markedly higher than Ozempic.