The type 2 diabetes drug Victoza (liraglutide) can help overweight and obese people without diabetes lose weight, according to a new multinational clinical trial, but the drug comes with some risks.
Victoza, an injectable drug in a class of diabetes medications known as glucagonlike peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 2010 to help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. In an effort to expand the indication to non-diabetics who are overweight, the medication was pitted against a placebo and the currently marketed anti-obesity drug Qsymia, a combination of the medications phentermine and topiramate, in clinical trials.
Participants who took Victoza lost an average of 8 percent of their body weight from baseline after 54 weeks, which is about the same weight loss patients experienced by patients taking Qsymia. Patients taking Victoza, however, experienced more nausea and vomiting compared to patients taking a placebo, but the problem resolved over time, researchers say.
A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel is scheduled to review a 3.0 mg dose of Victoza for the new obesity indication. Victoza is currently marketed by Novo Nordisk at a 1.8-mg dose for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
While the efficacy of high-dose Victoza may help people lose weight, it could also make them more susceptible to more dangerous side effects. Victoza has been linked to a painful pancreas inflammation called pancreatitis, gallbladder disorders and thyroid cancer.
Victoza, along with other GLP-1 agonists, is grouped in a larger class of diabetes medications known as incretin mimetics, which are currently being reviewed by the FDA because of mounting reports of acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Studies suggest that incretin mimetics with the greatest pancreatic cancer risks include Byetta and Januvia.