Dec. 30, 2021
2021 was a historic year for obesity treatment. In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved the weight loss drug semaglutide, which some experts described as a "game changer". The medication, initially developed to treat Type 2 diabetes, was the first drug treatment to be approved by the FDA for weight management since 2014. Wegovy, the brand of semaglutide sold by Novo Nordisk, is a once-weekly injection designed to balance out hunger hormones. It's prescribed for people with a body mass index of 30 or more, or a BMI of 27 with related conditions such as diabetes.
Semaglutide has been widely praised, prompting such high demand that there were shortages within months of its entrance into the market.
While questions remain about its long-term effects, the drug made a splash in healthcare this year, changing how experts and the public think about weight loss.
Research suggested that semaglutide helped people lose significant weight, as long as they were taking it
Semaglutide works by increasing the production of insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar. Research published in early 2021 found that people taking the drug lost 15% to 20% of their body weight over 68 weeks, compared with 2.4% for people taking a placebo.
To keep the weight off, people need to continue taking semaglutide. In another study, people who took semaglutide lost 10% of their body weight in 20 weeks, but those who stopped taking it regained weight in the weeks after ending the treatment. The people in the study group who kept taking the drug went on to lose another 8% of their body weight.
Semaglutide's study results led to plenty of hype for obesity treatment. But it got a public-relations boost from Marc Andreessen, who called semaglutide a "miracle drug" for suppressing appetite.
Could the competition from and success of Semaglutide (Wegovy) be one of the reasons why Weight Watchers has been struggling lately? We'll have to do some additional research to find out just how much of this drug was sold in 2021. However, we do know from decades of experience that there have been very few obesity drugs in the U.S. that have maintained strong and significant sales long-term. As noted above, you have to KEEP taking the drug to maintain the weight loss. How long do dieters want to take weekly injections? And at what cost? Plus, long-term side effects are not yet known.