Have scientists developed a 'drop two dress sizes' drug?

Holly Enriquez
Monday, July 19, 2010

A drug developed to combat type 2 diabetes, when given in stronger doses, also reverses cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure, UK researchers have found.

The drug called liraglutide can help people drop the equivalent of two dress sizes in six months and reverse deadly obesity-related diseases, the UK's Daily Mail reported.

Liraglutide (marketed as Victoza ), which comes in an injectable pen, is similar in structure to a gut hormone and tricks the brain into thinking we are full, despite taking in 20 percent less food.

The drug, if proven as an effective weight-loss drug through further testing, could eventually cut the need for stomach banding and other potentially dangerous procedures.

In the study conducted in the UK and other countries, 550 obese people were given either liraglutide, orlistat (marketed as Xenical) or dummy pills daily for six months.

Those who took liraglutide lost an average of 9kg over six months — more than twice as much as those on orlistat. Patients on the dummy pills lost an average of 2.8kg. When patients continued to take liraglutide for 18 months, they remained at the lower weight.

And weight loss was not the only positive outcome. Patients' blood pressure dropped to such an extent that patients could stop their current medication, and there was a vast improvement in blood cholesterol and their risk of diabetes was also drastically reduced.

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"The weight loss was very striking," said the University of Glasgow's Professor Mike Lean, who presented his findings at the International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm last week.

"One of the things we looked at was pre-diabetes, where you have one foot on the slippery slope towards diabetes and heart disease, and it more or less abolished it," he said.

"That doesn't mean that it has gone forever but at least you have turned the clock back."

Professor Lean said that although liraglutide is very effective, once patients stopped taking the drug, they started to regain the weight as their eating habits hadn't changed.

"Can people adapt their eating habits and start to become thin people? We don't know," he said. "But we do know with absolute certainty that when you stop a drug and the effects have gone, people's weight starts going up again."

The drug is currently not registered in Australia as either a weight-loss or anti-diabetes medication but is available as an effective treatment for diabetes in other parts of the world.

As impressive as the findings of this study may be, experts have warned there is no "quick-fix" drug and anti-obesity medication should only be used as a support to a healthy lifestyle and nutritious diet.

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