Drug against obesity: a study gives surprising results

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Of: Natasha Terjung


A new drug aims to make it easier for overweight people to lose weight. The results of the study amaze even medical experts.

Indianapolis – No carbs at night, exercise more or try the next diet: There are many options for those who want to lose weight, but the different methods don’t always work. It is often difficult for overweight people in particular to lose weight over the long term and keep it off. Obesity is also not uncommon in Germany: according to a survey by the Federal Statistical Office, 61% of men and 47% of women are overweight – children also gained weight during Corona. In addition, obesity can lead to comorbidities: according to a study from Heidelberg, obesity also increases the risk of developing colon cancer – this is what a study from Heidelberg shows. A new experimental drug could be an alternative to gastric surgery for obese and overweight people.

Preliminary results of a study show that the drug called tirzepatide, developed by the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, helped participants lose around 22.5% of their weight. The company announced that the study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. “I didn’t think we could achieve this weight loss with a drug,” Nadia Ahmad, senior medical director of Eli Lilly’s obesity program, told The New York Times. “We only got this far with one operation.”

According to information from the New York Times, the study results released so far also come as a surprise to experts. “Wow (and a double wow!),” Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, CEO of Verve Therapeutics, a heart disease drug company, wrote on Twitter. Such drugs would “truly revolutionize the treatment of obesity.”

New drug helps fight obesity: Study participants lost around 24 kg

The drug’s effectiveness appears to be “significantly better than any other anti-obesity drug currently available in the United States,” Dr. Lee Kaplan, an obesity expert at Massachusetts General Hospital, reportedly said. The results are “very impressive”. Although Kaplan was not involved in the study or development of tirzepatide, he advises pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly, The New York Times reports.

A drug developed in the United States helps fight obesity © Armin Weigel/dpa

Eli Lilly’s study was conducted over a period of 72 weeks. 2539 people participated. The participants were obese or overweight and also suffered from high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obstructive sleep apnea or high cholesterol. They were divided into four groups. According to the New York Times, participants were given dietary advice to reduce their daily calorie intake by around 500 – even dairy consumption may play a role in weight loss. One group received a placebo, the others received three doses of the drug ranging from 5 milligrams to 15 milligrams. The subjects injected the drug once a week. According to the study results, participants who took the highest dose of 15 milligrams lost the most weight.

They lost about 24 kilograms during the study. Additionally, 89% of people taking 5 milligrams of tirzepatide reduced their body weight by 5% compared to those taking a placebo. At the start of the study, participants weighed an average of 105 kilograms and had a body mass index (BMI) of 38. This reduced to an average of 30 as a result of weight loss. But what exactly does the BMI?

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) is the ratio of body weight to height.
  • BMI is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as follows:
  • underweight : less than 18.5
  • standard weight: 18:5-24:9
  • Overweight: 25-29.9
  • Severe overweight (obesity): 30 years and over
  • Important: When calculating the BMI, no distinction is made between muscle mass and fat mass in the body. If you suspect you are overweight, you should discuss it with a doctor, advises the Federal Nutrition Center. (Source: Federal Nutrition Center)

Obesity drug could be an alternative to gastric surgery

Most study subjects would not be eligible for bariatric surgery. These are surgical procedures such as gastric banding or gastric bypass to treat obesity. Specialists will assess whether this is necessary and sensible. According to the German Society for General and Visceral Surgery (DGAV), such an operation is an option for people with a BMI over 40 or for overweight people with an obesity-related disease such as type diabetes mellitus. 2 and a BMI between 35 and 40. .

Therefore, drugs like tirzepatide could be an alternative for many. However, the drug must be taken for life, since obesity is a chronic disease. The price could also become an issue: a similar drug from the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk costs around 1,284 euros per month, reports the New York Times. Tirzepatid could also be in this price range.

According to a survey by the Federal Statistical Office, 61% of men and 47% of women in Germany are overweight.
According to a survey by the Federal Statistical Office, 61% of men and 47% of women in Germany are overweight. © Alenmax/Imago

Both drugs are new and belong to the class of incretins. Incretin is a naturally occurring hormone that can slow gastric emptying, regulate insulin levels, and reduce appetite. Side effects of these medications include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Doctor Robert F. Kushner, an obesity expert at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Novo Nordisk, said the new drug, along with a similar but less effective drug from Novo Nordisk, could fill a gap in the obesity treatment. Diet, exercise and taking medication to control obesity typically resulted in a 10% weight loss. Although this is enough to improve health, it is not enough to improve the lives of obese people in general. Another study came to the conclusion that too high a BMI – i.e. being overweight – promotes a severe course of a corona infection.

The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced that it will present and publish the results of the study at a medical conference soon. Additionally, further studies of tirzepatid are ongoing. (ter)

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