America has a new weapon in the fight against obesity. The FDA on Friday approved a new weight-loss drug, Wegovy, for people who are either obese or overweight and have at least one weight-related medical problem.
"We have to think about obesity no different than hypertension, than high cholesterol, than diabetes," said Dr. Domenica Rubino, the director of the Washington Center for Weight Management and Research.
Rubino said people taking existing obesity medications lose an average of about 7% to 9% of their body weight. "People who require 10%, 15%, 20% weight loss, we need tools," she said.
During a 16-month study, patients on Wegovy lost an average of 17% of their body weight. Side effects included diarrhea and nausea, which usually resolved as the dose was slowly increased. Patients taken off the drug gained back more than half their weight loss.
Trial participant Lisa Robillard lost 63 pounds. She said she previously tried fad diets or any other methods she thought would help her lose weight.
"I wasn't hungry between meals, which was just unheard of for me. I was fuller quicker and cravings that I had disappeared," she said of the new drug.
Wegovy is similar to the diabetes drug Ozempic, which is already being prescribed off-label for weight loss. Both drugs mimic a natural hormone that helps regulate appetite. Wegovy is approved for long-term use and it's recommended that it be paired with diet and exercise.
"These hormones actually affect signals in the brain," Rubino said. "It really just doesn't come down to willpower. It's much more complicated. This physiology is very strong and it is not your fault."