A type 2 diabetes medication for adults may also help morbidly obese youths lose weight, a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School suggests.
Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States. There are few treatments available for severely obese children besides lifestyle changes and surgery. Researchers wondered if any currently approved medications might help children and teenagers lose weight.
The study focused on exenatide, marketed by Amylin Pharmaceuticals as Byetta. The drug is designed to boost the production of insulin in adults with type 2 diabetes in order to regulate blood sugar levels. It was also found to reduce body weight by slowing down how quickly food moves through the digestive system, which gives a person the feeling of being fuller for a longer period of time.
The study involved morbidly obese participants between the ages of 12 and 19, and separated them into two groups. One group of 12 youths were prescribed exenatide before breakfast and dinner every day for three months. The other group of 10 youths were given a placebo. At the start of the study, participants in both groups had a BMI of about 43. After three months, the BMI of participants in the exenatide group was about 41 and the control placebo group was 42. That translates to the exenatide group losing about 7 pounds more than the placebo group.
The researchers then gave exenatide to both groups for another three months, and noted that the group that had been on the medication for a total of six months had lowered their BMI a total of 4 percentage points compared to those who started out taking placebo.
The results are modest, but researchers say the weight loss could stack up over the years. However, drugs to treat type 2 diabetes can be hard on the body. The class of diabetes drugs that include Byetta, for example, was recently singled out for increasing the risk of pancreatitis.
Previously, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed severe restrictions of the type 2 diabetes drug Avandia after it was linked to fatal heart attacks, and warned against the drug Actos after it was associated with cases of bladder cancer.