The world of medical science moves along at the rate of knots these days. Breakthroughs made only a few years ago can be superseded before you know it. Sometimes even months.
Take the weight-loss drug Wegovy, for example. We wrote of its introduction on these pages in March, before its anticipated Australian launch. Now, the next generation of weight-loss drugs is already being hailed, and it could change the landscape like never before.
This week, renowned UK journal New Scientist published an article titled Beyond Wegovy. Such is the touted effectiveness of these next-wave weight-loss drugs, some suggest they could actually end the obesity epidemic.
That’s a bold claim. If true, though, the implications for those affected are huge.
What is Wegovy?
Wegovy is a brand name for a drug known by scientists as semaglutide. It also goes by the brand name Ozempic. Semaglutide was around for about a decade before being branded Wegovy, but for other purposes. Branded as Ozempic, semaglutide is primarily marketed as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.
However, one of its side-effects is weight loss. (It’s nice to know that the side-effects of drugs are not always negative!) Semaglutide can actually result in a loss of up to 15 per cent of body weight.
For anyone who falls into the obese weight range classification, this could be life-changing, even life-saving. As Wegovy, semaglutide was approved in the US as a weight-loss drug in 2021.
But there is one significant issue surrounding Wegovy: it is still not yet being sold in Australia. Though the reasons for this are not entirely clear, the most likely is a world-wide shortage.
This has come as the result of a huge spike in demand resulting in semaglutide being difficult to access even for its original intended patients, those with diabetes.
Although semaglutide should be prescribed only to diabetics and those suffering obesity, there are suggestions that others are accessing it. This includes those who are not classified obese, but rather just looking to a lose a few kilos quickly.
With luck and good management, the shortage will be a temporary one.
The next generation of weight-loss drugs
According to experts, the next wave of drugs promises to be not only cheaper and easier to use, but even more potent.
Included are several potential candidates undergoing clinical trials. One, known as tirzepatide (branded as Mounjaro), produced an average 21 per cent loss of weight in a recent trial.
Another, called retatrutide, produced an even greater loss, an average of 24 per cent.
A third drug, named CagriSema, produced 16 per cent weight loss on average in diabetics. That percentage would likely be significantly higher in those without diabetes.
Semaglutide works by mimicking a hormone found naturally within us, known as GLP-1, which acts as an appetite suppressant.
These next-generation drugs do the same but go further. They mimic other naturally occurring hormones, among them GIP and glucagon, which are also associated with appetite suppression.
The implications of these breakthroughs are huge. It might be easy to dismiss these new drugs as pandering to those who should eat less.
But the truth is far more complicated. The obesity epidemic places an enormous burden on health services all over the world. One way or another, we all bear the cost of that burden, so any relief will benefit us all.
An industry that helps us become smaller is about to get a lot bigger.
Have you been prescribed weight-loss drugs? How have they helped? Have you experienced any side-effects? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.