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Saxenda Effective For Weight Loss, But Not A Cure-All

An injection that gained FDA approval in December could help obese or overweight individuals lose weight, but they may not be satisfied with the results.

Saxenda, the popular name for liraglutide, is the latest in a string of weight-loss wonder drugs. It simulates a naturally occurring hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1, which reduces hunger and slows the movement of food from the stomach to the intestine, helping users to feel full for longer.

According to a study published July 2 in the New England Journal of Medicine, 63 percent of patients who took Saxenda lost more than five percent of their body weight, compared with 27 percent of individuals in the control group. Of Saxenda users, 33 percent lost more than 10 percent of their body weight, while only 11 percent of control subjects lost the same amount.

Though five to 10 percent of body weight is enough to significantly increase health, lead study author Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, a professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, warned that results may not look significant.

Dr. Xavier told CNN that Saxenda “does not cause so much more weight loss (than other drugs) that you’re going to have a revolution here.”

(Saxenda) does not cause so much more weight loss (than other drugs) that you’re going to have a revolution here.

The drug may not be for everyone. Saxenda is intended for adults who are considered obese, with a BMI of 30 or greater. The drug may also be useful to adults who have a BMI as low as 27 but have “at least one weight-related condition such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol,” according to the FDA.

Even if patients physically qualify for the drug, there are other obstacles that prevent it from being an easy weight-loss solution. Patients would likely need to stay on the drug indefinitely to maintain weight loss, Pi-Sunyer said, but most insurance carriers don’t cover Saxenda for weight management. Out-of-pocket, it costs about $1,000 per month.

“While there’s room for options, we also have to note that this is not a cure,” Dr. Elias Siraj, a professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine, told Live Science. “Fundamentally, obesity is a disease of lifestyle — diet and exercise — and therefore lifestyle modification has to be the core, no matter what you do. Medications alone are not going to do it.”

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