In a global phase 3a clinical trial, obese adolescents who received semaglutide once weekly experienced a 16.1% decrease in body mass index (BMI) compared to placebo, while BMI of those who received the latter increased by 0.6%.
“Obesity rates are rising, not just in the US, but around the world,” said lead author Silva Arslanian, MD, professor of pediatrics and clinical and translational science and Richard L. Day Endowed Chair in Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Effective drugs to treat obesity
“In general, we make lifestyle recommendations: Eat more vegetables; do not eat fried food; don’t drink soda But unfortunately, we live in a very obesogenic environment, so it can be very difficult to make these changes. There is a real need for safe and effective drugs to treat obesity.”
Semaglutide is an anti-obesity drug that mimics the effects of the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 to work on the regions of the brain that govern hunger and satiety. This drug was approved for chronic weight control in obese or overweight people in 2021.
Semaglutide was administered to 201 obese or overweight adolescents aged 12 to 18 years at multiple centers to determine whether it was also beneficial in young adults. All participants received concurrent lifestyle interventions, including advice on a healthy diet and regular exercise, throughout the experiment. Participants received once-weekly subcutaneous injections of either 2.4 mg of semaglutide or a placebo.
After 68 weeks, 72.5% of semaglutide participants had achieved at least 5% weight loss compared to only 17% of those taking placebo.
“The results are surprising,” said Arslanian, who is also director of the Pediatric Clinical and Translational Research Center and chief scientific officer of the Pediatric Obesity and Metabolism Research Center at Pitt and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.