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Saxenda Injections Help People Achieve Weight Loss

The repurposed diabetes drug liraglutide, under the brand name Saxenda, works better than placebo injections to help people lose weight.

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.

New England Journal of Medicine, July 2, 2015

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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