More Effective Weight Loss Drugs Are Coming

Data from phase 2 clinical trials show that weight loss drug candidates retatrutide and survodutide may be more effective than the current market leaders.

More than 40% of Americans have obesity, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (TD2) and heart disease. As obesity rates continue to rise, the demand for drugs to treat the condition soars: the obesity drug market is projected to grow from $1.2 billion in 2022 to $5.2 billion by 2030.

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are often treated with a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. They work by mimicking the GLP-1 hormone that is naturally produced in the gut after a meal and stimulates insulin release.

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While effective, these drugs are expensive. For example, semaglutide sold under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic may cost more than $1,000 per month and are sometimes hard to find due to supply shortages. They are also associated with severe side effects and can cause potential hospitalizations.

Unprecedented efficacy of retatrutide

In the phase 2 clinical trial, the participants who took the highest dose of the retatrutide lost more than 24% of their body weight within 48 weeks, compared to the 15% to 20% effect of similar weight loss drugs. Additionally, all 338 participants taking either of the two higher doses (8 mg and 12 mg) shed at least 5% or more of their body weight.

The study also examined 98 patients with both obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). After 48 weeks of treatment with the two highest doses of retatrutide, the amount of fat in the liver normalized in 9 out of 10 patients.

Another phase 2 clinical trial found that retatrutide was superior to dulaglutide, a common type 2 diabetes drug, and placebo in reducing hemoglobin A1c. Moreover, those taking the highest dose of retatrutide lost 16.9% of their body weight on average over the course of eight months.

The trials also suggest that retatrutide, developed by the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, has an overall safety and tolerability profile similar to other GLP-1 receptor agonists approved for obesity treatment and type 2 diabetes treatment.

Survodutide may reduce appetite

A phase 2 clinical trial of survodutide, a GLP-1 receptor antagonist developed by the German company Boehringer Ingelheim, enrolled 387 participants with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or higher. At week 46, patients taking the highest dose of survodutide at 4.8mg lost 18.7% of their body weight on average. Additionally, most (82.8%) participants in the group lost at least 5% of their body weight.

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"By activating both the glucagon and GLP-1 receptors, survodutide may inhibit both appetite and improve energy expenditure. The findings not only show significant weight loss with increasing doses of survodutide, but we also saw a favorable safety profile, reinforcing the potential clinical benefits," Carel le Roux, MBChB, Ph.D., Professor at University College in Dublin, Ireland, and Principal Investigator, said in a statement.

Although survodutide was found to be safe and tolerable, about 90% reported side effects, primarily gastrointestinal issues like nausea or vomiting.

While retatrutide and survodutide show promise in effectively reducing body weight, their beneficial effects are yet to be confirmed in phase 3 clinical trials.

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