A new weight loss treatment is available to obese patients but researchers warn the drug has been linked to serious side effects, including cancer risks.
The new iinjectable obesity drug, Saxenda, was approved late last year by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for patients with a BMI of 30 or more, or for patients with a BMI of 27 with at least one other weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure. The active ingredient, liraglutide, is the same drug in the type 2 diabetes treatment Victoza. Saxenda, however, contains a higher dose than Victoza.
New patients will be required to complete a health questionnaire and schedule a confidential online consultation with a doctor during which the patient’s past weight loss attempts, medical conditions and currently used prescription medications will be reviewed. Patients will be given a master plan that includes personalized meal plans developed by certified nutritionists.
Participants in a clinical trial testing the safety and effectiveness of Saxenda reported side effects such as nausea, hypoglycemia, constipation, vomiting, headaches, abdominal pain, and fatigue. Since studies have linked Victoza to thyroid cancer and pancreatic cancer, patients with a family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 are discouraged from taking the drug.
Saxenda is intended to be lifelong treatment for weight loss management, and data will be collected to determine long-term adverse events with the drug. Because Saxenda is a higher dosage of Victoza, researchers warn the side effects of liraglutide may be more prevalent in Saxenda users.