A new generation of drugs against obesity has for months aroused the enthusiasm of millions of patients and the pharmaceutical sector – and a question: what happens if these treatments are stopped?
According to a study published Monday, a significant portion of the weight lost during treatment returns once it is stopped. Could these new molecules thus create a form of long-term dependence?
New anti-obesity drugs
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was carried out with tirzepatide, a molecule from the American laboratory Eli Lilly present in Zepbound, approved in November in the United States as a treatment against obesity, a disease of which approximately 40% of adults suffer in the country.
Zepbound is part, with Wegovy, Mounjaro and Ozempic in particular, of the recent wave of drugs which are panicking the pharmaceutical sector and nourishing the hopes of millions of patients around the world with their very attractive properties: they treat type 2 diabetes, help you lose weight and can be used to treat obesity.
These drugs mimic a hormone secreted by the intestines, GLP-1 (abbreviation for glugaco-like peptide 1) which stimulates insulin secretion and curbs the appetite by providing a feeling of satiety.
Half of lost weight regained after stopping treatment
In the study published Monday, a cohort of 670 patients first took a dose of Zepbound as a weekly injection, causing them to lose an average of 21% of their weight after 36 weeks.
They were then separated into two groups: one continued to receive Zepbound, the other a placebo.
- After 88 weeks (more than a year and a half), those who received the placebo regained almost half of the weight lost, with a weight still 10% lower than at the very start of treatment;
- The Zepbound group continued to lose weight, with a body mass 25% lower than at the start.
The cohort was made up of patients in Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan and the United States, with an average age of 48 years, approximately 70% women and a starting weight of 107 kilos on average.
They all received advice to eat less and exercise.
These results “highlight the need to continue treatment to prevent weight regain and ensure continued weight loss“, which provides important cardiac benefits, write the authors.
NO to diets, YES to WW!
What about the effects in the event of continued treatment?
Their publication shows, as 4 other clinical trials had already done, that with this new generation of drugs, “weight is regained significantly” in the event of stopping treatment, they summarize.
“Patients, caregivers and the public do not always understand that obesity is a chronic disease that requires ongoing treatment, meaning that treatment must be stopped when weight loss goals are achieved.” said Jeff Emmick, an Eli Lilly laboratory manager, in a statement reacting to the study.
Eli Lilly sells Zepbound for $1,060 per month in the United States – a high price, rarely reimbursed by the country’s health insurance companies.
This new generation of medications increases the risk of gastrointestinal problems. And even if they are rarely serious, these side effects could perhaps, according to experts, ultimately outweigh the benefits of the treatment if it must be administered over the long term.