8 Ozempic updates

Health systems are magnifying their weight loss programs as estimates place the global prevalence of obesity at 1 billion adults and children. 

Although the World Health Organization said weight loss drugs are not the sole answer to rising obesity rates, the industry for GLP-1s such as Ozempic continues to boom. 

Here are eight updates on the Type 2 diabetes drug and its market:

1. Viking Therapeutics, a San Diego-based drugmaker, reported strong results from a phase 2 trial of its drug candidate VK2735. The therapy is a glucagon-like peptide-1 and a glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide receptor agonist — the same as Zepbound (tirzepatide), Eli Lilly's weight loss drug. 

In the trial, patients shed 14.7% of their body weight — a more promising result than Eli Lilly's tirzepatide and Novo Nordisk's semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy). 

2. The FDA will likely expand the label of Wegovy, Novo Nordisk's approved weight loss drug with the same active ingredient as Ozempic. In mid-February, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf hinted that cardiovascular indications could be on Wegovy's label in 2024, Endpoints reported.

In phase 3 trials, Novo Nordisk found Wegovy reduced heart failure-related symptoms and helped patients evade 20% of major adverse cardiovascular events. 

3. There's no consensus yet on when — or if — patients can keep the weight off after quitting GLP-1s. The injections cost about $1,000 for a four-week supply, though, so some patients are turning to older medications or switching to other GLP-1s.

One study The Lancet published Feb. 19 found that unhealthy weight regain can be halted with exercise. Among about 100 people with obesity, those who exercised while using a weight loss medication maintained more muscle and kept off far more of their weight after quitting the drug than people who didn't work out.

4. A clinical trial among four health systems suggested bariatric surgery is more effective for people with diabetes than medical and lifestyle interventions. The trial tracked the outcomes of 262 patients who either underwent bariatric surgery or medical/lifestyle management between 2007 and 2013. 

5. Physicians are seeing an increasing number of patients who have used GLP-1s requesting plastic surgery procedures to remove sagging and excess skin. The unintended result was previously dubbed "Ozempic face" to describe the deflation in the face because of sudden weight loss. 

6. Grocery spending has decreased between 6% and 9% in households with GLP-1 users, according to data from more than 90,000 U.S. households. When GLP-1 use stopped, monthly grocery spending rebounded to previous levels.

7. In 2023, about 4,000 adolescent prescriptions were written for Wegovy and Ozempic for weight loss — a rapid growth compared to years prior. 

Nearly 20% of children have obesity, according to the CDC, which often causes other conditions including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and joint problems.

8. Over the next four years or so, GLP-1s are expected to boost the U.S. economy by $1 trillion, according to Goldman Sachs analysts. By 2030, the anti-obesity drug market could reach $100 billion — 16 times more than its current worth. 

Non-pharmaceutical industries are feeling rippling effects, from junk food companies switching tactics to Walmart shoppers buying fewer calories. 

The market has already changed the economy of Denmark, where Novo Nordisk is headquartered. In late February, the country became Europe's third-most prosperous economy despite being the continent's 22nd-most populous country. 

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