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News / Health

Novo Nordisk helps teens lose weight

Study participants’ body fat dropped 16%

By Immanual John Milton, Bloomberg News
Published: November 8, 2022, 6:00am

Novo Nordisk A/S’s weekly shot that reduces obesity in adults returned promising results in teens, according to a study that adds to a growing wave of potential interventions for the stubborn condition.

Novo’s semaglutide, cleared last year as Wegovy for use in U.S. adults, lowered a measure of body fat by more than 16 percent in obese adolescents, according to draft results of the company-funded study released Nov. 2 by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Over 250 million children and adolescents will be overweight or obese by 2030, according to projections from World Obesity Federation. Those conditions can put people at elevated risk of heart disease, cancer and other dangerous disorders.

The convergence factors contributing to waistline growth around the world — sedentary lives and calorie-rich diets — have become an opportunity for companies including Denmark-based Novo, Amgen Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co. that are advancing weight-control therapies in the market.

The study led by Paracelsus Medical University Salzburg pediatrician Daniel Weghuber enrolled 201 teens, all but one of whom was obese, with 180 completing the trial. Both the control and treatment groups received lifestyle interventions. However, research has shown that such modifications, although recommended by guidelines, often lead to only minor reductions in weight, with long-term results rarely achieved, the authors of the New England Journal article said.

About two-thirds of the participants received weekly 2.4-milligram shots of Novo’s drug for 68 weeks, leading to a 16.1 percent decrease in body mass index, while teens who got placebo shots saw a 0.6 percent gain in the measure of body fat. The adolescents who got shots of semaglutide also saw reductions of other risk factors associated with conditions like heart disease and diabetes, including waist circumference, blood-sugar measurements and some blood lipids, the authors said.

Serious adverse events were reported in 11 percent of those getting semaglutide group and 9 percent of those who received placebo shots. Data collection for the trial occurred from October 2019 to February 2022, according to a government study tracker.

Semaglutide is a glucagon-like peptide-1, one of a class of drugs that stimulates secretion of insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. The drug likely spurs weight loss by decreasing appetite and food cravings, leading to better diet control and reduced preference for fatty, energy-dense foods, according to a separate Novo-funded trial in 2017.