A “game-changing” weight-loss medication has been approved for use in Australia, with the power to help millions of people.
Marketed locally as Wegovy, the injectable drug promises to revolutionise weight-loss treatments, mimicking a naturally occurring hormone that slows down how fast the stomach works, making people feel fuller for longer.
“What’s happened is that clever chemists in the pharmaceutical industry have taken a peptide that is naturally occurring, and tweaked it so that instead of having a lifetime in the blood of about seconds or tens of seconds, they’ve extended it so it can be used as a once-weekly dose,” leading obesity researcher at Monash University, Professor Brian Oldfield, told news.com.au’s podcast I’ve Got News For You.
“That’s a major step forward – this ability to prolong the action and create a greater impact.”
Professor Oldfield said Wegovy’s impact on those who take it is “remarkable”.
“In a lot of cases, and this is just anecdotal, they will actually express this view that they just don’t have the cravings that they had. And it’s a very unusual feeling for them because they’ve lived with these cravings that drive them from one meal to the next,” he told host Andrew Bucklow.
“Now it’s less consequential. It’s not such a big deal.”
Around 30 per cent of Australians are considered obese – and while healthy eating and physical activity play a role in maintaining good health, they’re simply not as effective when it comes to weight loss.
“[Wegovy] creates upwards of about 20 per cent weight loss, which is a spectacular weight loss, and double at least of what we were expecting from anti-obesity medications just a year or so ago,” Prof Oldfield said.
“[These results] are after a number of months, and you build up to the dose. So it’s not a wonder drug that will create a response overnight – it will take weeks to months to start seeing appreciable weight loss.”
Those who are prescribed the drug “stay on it for life”. If they were to stop, Prof Oldfield said, they would regain the weight they’d lost.
It also doesn’t come without side effects – particularly nausea.
“But, if people can persist, these will diminish over time,” Prof Oldfield said, adding the drug could be “just the tip of the iceberg”, with even more impressive medications coming to the market in the not-so-distant future.
Wegovy’s arrival on the Australian market comes after the rise of Ozempic last year, an injectable-drug semaglutide that’s approved for the treatment of diabetes, but has been increasingly used by people as an “off-label” weight-loss pill.
Thousands of people taking up the once-a-week drug led to a nationwide shortage, depriving people with diabetes from accessing the medication, leaving them in “dire straits”.
“It’s really frustrating when we hear stories about people who are using it to lose just a few kilos,” Ashleigh Rae, who has type 2 diabetes, told NCA NewsWire in May.
“Taking it because you want to lose a little bit of weight like a couple of kilos versus people who actually really need it for serious weight issues and diabetes is very different.”