Treatments against obesity: “a new era” but questions

Treatments against obesity: “a new era” but questions

Treatments designed to treat diabetes which also act against obesity: the management of this chronic disease, a global public health scourge, is entering “a new era”, but there are many calls for caution regarding its use diverted from these products.

These medications mimic a hormone secreted by the intestines (GLP-1) which acts on the pancreas to promote insulin secretion and which sends a satiety signal to the brain after ingesting food.

Several GLP-1-based drugs are thus indicated in the treatment of obesity or overweight with comorbidity factors.

We see effects in terms of weight loss that we have never seen before compared to other drugs and which can be similar to obesity surgery.“, declared to AFP Karine Clément, professor of nutrition at the Pitié-Salpétrière Hospital and director of the Nutrition and Obesity research unit at Inserm.

This is a real change in care” more “in no case does it cure the disease“: stopping treatment causes weight to regain, she emphasizes.

A real little pharmaceutical and societal revolution“, adds health economist Frédéric Bizard, however urging caution, as with any new treatment.

These weight loss properties are displayed by celebrities and influencers on social networks, creating a real craze for these drugs seen by the public as the most effective way to lose a few pounds.

A craze that can get out of control

We therefore have a misuse of certain GLP-1 molecules, such as semaglutide used in the antidiabetic Ozempic from the Novo Nordisk laboratory – which announced on Thursday a new investment of 2.1 billion euros on a site of production of antidiabetics in the southwest of Paris.

Health authorities regularly sound the alarm because the medication, essential for diabetics, may run out.

The craze is such that injector pens falsely labeled Ozempic are circulating, European and French health authorities warned last month.

This type of medication, called GLP-1 analogs, can also have side effects such as nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal disorders.

Ils “must be prescribed wisely, in a supervised manner because it is a sensitive area where there have been many failures in the past“, insists Professor Karine Clément. “The real question is the very long term“, she says. “And then, there are people who respond to these treatments, others not. We don’t understand why“.

Another downside: the method of administration is still exclusively injectable, but above all, the price of this drug and its consequences on the health budget (the treatment costs a thousand dollars per month for a patient in the United States).

NO to diets, YES to WW!

Billions of euros

The pioneering pharmaceutical groups in this field are obviously the first beneficiaries of this breakthrough in the treatment of obesity: the Danish Novo Nordisk (Wegovy against obesity and Ozempic against diabetes) became the largest European stock market capitalization in September. Another group at the forefront in this field: the American Eli Lilly (tirzepatide, Mounjaro).

Investments are going well – to the tune of billions of euros – to meet demand, with these laboratories having to increase their production capacities.

The World Obesity Federation predicts that obesity (body mass index greater than 30kg/m2) will affect nearly 2 billion people by 2035.

Other solutions are being prepared in the industry. “In the coming years, we will see combinations of two or three hormones arriving.“, indicates Professor Clément.

In Lyon, the biotech Adocia is developing an insulin combined with amylin to “replacing insulin that causes weight gain with insulin that causes weight loss” for people with type 1 diabetes.

We are in a new era: that of satiety hormones and no longer that of appetite suppressants“, whose toxic effects reached their peak in the Mediator scandal, underlines Olivier Soula, head of this biotech.