A type 2 diabetes drug cuts body weight by up to 20%, achieving the same results as weight loss surgery, researchers have said.
Semaglutide suppresses the appetite and a team from University College London (UCL) say it could have a significant impact on obesity rates.
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They found that more than one third (35%) of people who took the drug on a regular basis lost more than one-fifth of their total body weight.
The trial, which was carried out in 16 countries across Asia, Europe, North America, and South America, involved nearly 2,000 people who were either overweight or considered obese.
Each participant was either given a 2.4mg dose of semaglutide or a placebo on a weekly basis. They were also provided with counselling sessions from dietitians to help them stick to a reduced-calorie diet and exercise more.
In the semaglutide group the average weight loss was 15.3kg (2.4 stone). But the average amount of weight lost in the placebo group was only 2.6kg (0.4 stone).
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Lead author Professor Rachel Batterham from UCL’s Centre for Obesity Research, said: “The findings of this study represent a major breakthrough for improving the health of people with obesity.
“Three quarters (75%) of people who received semaglutide 2.4mg lost more than 10% of their body weight and more than one-third lost more than 20%.
“No other drug has come close to producing this level of weight loss – this really is a game changer. For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight loss surgery.”
The study findings have been published in the New England Journal for Medicine.