Note: $NVO is the manufacturer of this new miracle drug Wegovy™
Fincancial Times headline: A new ‘miracle’ weight-loss drug really works — raising huge questions
Sub-headline: Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy uses a hormone to regulate hunger. It’s wildly effective, but is it misguided?
Wegovy, made by Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk, is the first in what is shaping up to be a new generation of obesity treatments, which use a hormone to regulate appetite. (The name is the result of a nebulous bureaucratic process involving pharmaceutical regulators and the company’s marketers.) The average patient in the study in which Robillard participated lost 15 per cent of their body weight, about three times more than on previous drugs. Nearly a third of them lost almost as much as they would after weight-loss surgery. Robillard lost 57 pounds. The US Food and Drug Administration approved Wegovy for general use in June 2021
Wegovy arrived on the market amid a global obesity crisis. Almost half of Americans are expected to be obese by 2030, a Harvard study found, and that could account for up to 18 per cent of healthcare spending on related conditions, ranging from heart disease and stroke to osteoarthritis. Worldwide obesity rates have tripled since 1975, with 650 million adults obese in 2016, according to the World Health Organization. In 2019, the OECD declared that developed countries’ plans to tackle the problem were largely failing. And the Covid-19 pandemic only underscored that obesity puts people at greater risk for infectious disease.
Despite the vast need, many major pharmaceutical companies have held back from developing weight-loss drugs, in part because the category is marred by a long history of quackery and safety scares. From the 1930s to the 1960s, the industry poured money into diet pills based on amphetamines. These eventually fell out of favour because they were highly addictive and had harmful side effects. In the 1990s, fen-phen — a combination of fenfluramine and phentermine — became so popular that weight-loss clinics sprung up across the US just to prescribe it, even though some patients on the drug experienced manic episodes. It was later taken off the market after a study showed up to a third of patients could suffer from heart valve defects. As recently as 2020, US regulators forced the withdrawal of weight-loss drug Belviq because of concerns it increased the risk of cancer. For the most desperate, surgery has become popular, though it is expensive and comes with its own risks and restrictions.