2 New Oral Weight Loss Drugs May Be the Next Ozempic and Wegovy: New Data

2 New Oral Weight Loss Drugs May Be the Next Ozempic and Wegovy: New Data
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Harry Lee

Amidst the relentless pursuit to combat obesity, a recent study has emerged, shedding light on pills that could offer a convenient solution to address this epidemic. By introducing an oral alternative to the currently available injections, this development may provide millions of individuals with a more accessible means of managing their weight.

Novo Nordisk—the  Danish pharmaceutical company that manufacturers the type 2 diabetes medication Ozempic, which has gained fame as a celebrity weight loss sensation—announced that the company has developed an oral version that demonstrates comparable effects in reducing body weight.
Similarly, Pfizer has also been actively researching oral obesity drugs. A study published in JAMA Network revealed that danuglipron, an oral medication taken twice daily, has shown significant weight reduction in participants with type 2 diabetes.
Wegovy, Ozempic, and Eli Lilly's Mounjaro, another antidiabetic medication used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes as well as for weight loss, all require weekly injections. Eli Lilly plans to initiate massive clinical trial for orforglipron, an oral drug taken once daily, targeting individuals with obesity.

'Comparable' to Wegovy

"We are very pleased with the weight loss demonstrated by the once-daily oral formulation of semaglutide in obesity," Martin Holst Lange, executive vice president for development at Novo Nordisk, said in a statement, adding that the results are "comparable" to Wegovy.

The active substance in the new pill, semaglutide, harnesses the power of a hormone that plays a vital role in regulating our metabolism and hunger. Semaglutide is the same active substance found in the widely sought-after Wegovy and Ozempic.

In the trial, it was discovered that adults who took the daily oral semaglutide of 50 mg experienced a remarkable weight loss of 15.1 percent. Moreover, for those who diligently followed the treatment, the weight loss reached 17.4 percent. This trial spanned 68 weeks and included 667 participants who were obese or overweight and had one or more associated health conditions.

Novo Nordisk plans to seek regulatory approval for their oral drug in the United States and the European Union later this year.

Approval and availability of oral semaglutide may take a few years as more rigorous clinical trials to ensure its safety and effectiveness will be needed. These trials involve testing the drug on a large number of participants and evaluating its benefits and potential side effects.

Pfizer's Danuglipron

Just like semaglutide, danuglipron falls into the family of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists, which play a role in regulating metabolism and hunger.

Pfizer's oral obesity drug, danuglipron, has shown promising potential in significantly improving patients' blood sugar levels and reducing their body weight. The study involved 411 participants who were administered either a placebo or varying dosages of danuglipron (2.5 mg, 10 mg, 40 mg, 80 mg, and 120 mg) twice daily for a duration of 16 weeks.

The study revealed that by week 16, patients in all danuglipron groups experienced noteworthy improvements in their blood sugar levels, regardless of the dosage received. However, when it came to weight reduction, statistically significant results were observed only in the 80 mg and 120 mg groups, in comparison to the placebo.

The proportion of participants in the danuglipron group who achieved clinically meaningful weight loss, i.e., of 5 percent or more of body weight, was increased with the increase in dosage.

Pfizer sponsored the phase 2 randomized clinical trial study.

Despite Promising Weight Loss Effect, Concerns Surround Both Drugs

In the pursuit of effective weight loss solutions, the side effects and working mechanisms of GLP-1 agonist drugs have raised concerns.

Pfizer's danuglipron saw approximately 14 percent of participants discontinue the trial due to adverse events, including nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. These were the most frequently reported side effects, mostly classified as mild or moderate. The reported adverse events followed a consistent pattern, with a higher proportion of participants experiencing them in the danuglipron groups compared to the placebo.

Novo Nordisk did not provide specific information regarding the number of participants who discontinued the recent trial due to side effects. However, in a 2021 double-blind study, which included 1,961 adults receiving injectable semaglutide, serious adverse events were reported in 9.8 percent of semaglutide participants and 6.4 percent of placebo participants. Among the semaglutide group, 7 percent of participants discontinued treatment due to adverse events, while the placebo group had a discontinuation rate of 3.1 percent. The most commonly observed side effects were related to gastrointestinal disorders.

Another concern is the potential for rapid weight regain in patients after discontinuing the medication.

A study, published in 2022 in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, found that people who stopped taking semaglutide injections regained two-thirds of the lost weight in one year. Furthermore, any improvements seen in cardiometabolic complications, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, were reversed.

No similar study has been conducted specifically on the oral versions of these drugs.

As these drugs primarily work by suppressing appetite to reduce calorie intake rather than by promoting fat burning, there is a potential risk of muscle loss or the development of eating disorders. Both of these outcomes can have serious consequences for patients.