Participants in the trial lost an average of 22.5 per cent of their body weight. This is more than twice the normal effectiveness of such treatments and could be an alternative to surgery for people living with obesity.
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A weight-loss treatment that tricks your body into feeling full has achieved an average weight drop of 24kg in phase three clinical trials. For the obese participants, this was the equivalent of losing almost a quarter of their weight.
Obesity experts hope that this treatment, which involves a single weekly injection administered at home by the patient, could be an alternative to expensive and invasive bariatric surgeries like gastric bands and bypasses.
In the trial’s third phase, over 2,500 people in nine countries, each weighing 105 kilograms on average, gave themselves weekly injections of ‘tirzepatide’ at a range of doses, or a placebo, for 72 weeks. Participants were not aware of which one they were taking.
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Those on the highest doses saw the largest weight losses over the course of the 72 weeks, where participants also had to follow a moderate diet and exercise regime.
Those in the study’s control group, who were receiving a placebo, saw an average weight loss of just 2kg, buoying the drug’s producer, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.
Jeff Emmick Ph.D., vice president of product development at Lilly, said: “Tirzepatide is the first investigational medicine to deliver more than 20 per cent weight loss on average in a phase 3 study, reinforcing our confidence in its potential to help people living with obesity.”
Tirzepatide works by creating synthetic copies of the hormones that your stomach produces to tell your brain that you are full. Similar but less effective drugs like Semaglutide have recently hit the weight loss market and been described as the “holy grail” of obesity treatment.
When Eli Lilly’s “SURMOUNT-1” trial began, the study’s 2,539 participants weighed 231 pounds and had a BMI of 38, on average. Most of the participants did not qualify for bariatric surgery, which is reserved for people with a BMI higher than 40, or those with a BMI from 35 to 40 who also have sleep apnea or Type 2 diabetes.
“Tirzepatide delivered impressive body weight reductions in SURMOUNT-1, which could represent an important step forward for helping the patient and physician partnership treat this complex disease,” said Louis Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at New York’s Cornell Medical Center.
By the end of the trial, those on the higher doses of tirzepatide saw their BMIs fall to just 30 – taking them within the “normal” range of the BMI weight scale, though still overweight.
As obesity is a chronic condition, these injections could be a lifelong treatment for many but far easier to manage than the diseases and difficulties associated with being obese; these include musculoskeletal complications, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and at least 13 types of cancer.
This new treatment is not without its side effects, including constipation, diahorrea, nausea, and vomiting in mild to moderate cases. Though study scientists noted that these “adverse effects” were less than other similar treatments.