A study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that a diabetes drug called liraglutide can be used to help people lose weight. Originally developed to control blood sugar under the name Victoza, liraglutide is now also prescribed under the name Saxenda for weight loss.
In this trial, a high dose of liraglutide (3 mg daily) helped people lose roughly 12 pounds more over the course of a year than those on placebo. The drug must be injected every day.
Those who discontinued the liraglutide injections after a year regained about 6 pounds in the next three months, so it is possible that the drug will be needed indefinitely to maintain weight loss.
Side effects included digestive tract upset, gallstones, and pancreatitis. A higher incidence of breast cancer was also noted. Questions have been raised about whether Victoza contributes to the development of pancreatic cancer, and the answers will be critical for the safe use of Saxenda.
Is the Weight Loss Worth the Risk?
The side effects and the cost, at approximately $1,000 a month, mean that patients will have to consider carefully whether the benefits are worth the risks. The answer may well vary from one person to the next.