The diabetes drug turned weight loss drug is faring well in post-market studies when it comes to helping patients lose weight, but it could take months or years before serious side effects surface.
The drug liraglutide was approved in January 2010 as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. Drug maker Novo Nordisk marketed the drug under the brand name Victoza, and hired Paula Deen, the now-former Food Network star, to be the drug’s spokesman. Paula even touted her weight loss since starting treatment with the drug.
Paula wasn’t the only Victoza user who lost weight. The weight loss was noted in clinical trials and soon after Victoza hit the market. Novo Nordisk headed back to the lab to see if the drug could help obese patients without diabetes lose weight. The results were promising, so much so that in December 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Saxendra, a high-dose version of Victoza, for obese patients or overweight patients who have at least one weight-related health condition such as hypertension or type 2 diabetes.
A new post-market study of 3,700 type 2 diabetics confirmed Saxendra’s ability to control blood sugar and help patients lose weight. The drug was pitted against a placebo in a 56-week study during which patients taking Saxendra lost an average of 18 pounds compared to an average of 6 pounds for those taking a placebo. Patients in the Saxendra group also experienced lower blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels.
Short term side effects included nausea and diarrhea. But researchers say some side effects may take longer to emerge.
The diabetes drug Victoza has been linked to a painful inflammation of the pancreas known as acute pancreatitis. It has also been linked to pancreatic cancer. Researchers warn that since Saxendra is a more potent version of Victoza, more patients may be susceptible to serious adverse effects of the drug.