A weight-loss drug that has been shown to promote weight loss in obese people is now available for 12-year-olds in the United States. Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug Wegovy for use in adolescents 12 years of age or older, according to drugmaker Novo Nordisk.
Teens with a BMI in the top 5% of their age group will be able to receive a weekly injection of the drug along with a plan to reduce their calorie intake and increase their level of physical activity.
Wegovy (aka semaglutide) works by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone produced in the gut and released in response to food. It effectively tells the body that your appetite has been satisfied and suppresses your hunger.
The drug was approved by the FDA for use in adults in June 2021, but this latest approval will allow doctors to prescribe it to certain obese people under the age of 18.
The latest approval follows a phase 3a trial recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that adolescents receiving the drug had an average loss of 16.1% in BMI, compared to an increase of 0.6%. in the placebo group.
“The prevalence of adolescent obesity in the United States continues to rise, affecting adolescents and their families. Now, more than ever, we need new options to support adolescents,” said Aaron S Kelly, PhD, co-director of the Center for Pediatric Obesity Medicine at the University of Minnesota, in a statement.
“This FDA approval provides an additional tool to combat this serious, chronic, and progressive disease,” continued Kelly.
Decent research has indicated that it can be a useful tool in helping obese people lose weight, but some experts have already warned that no weight-loss drug should be considered a “quick fix”. Commenting on a clinical trial of the drug in adults in 2021, the researchers noted that there are still reservations about using the drug.
“While drugs like this may prove useful in the short term to achieve rapid weight loss in severe obesity, they are not a magic bullet for preventing or treating less severe degrees of obesity and public health measures that encourage behavioral changes such as regular physical activity and moderating dietary energy intake are still needed,” said Tom Sanders, Emeritus Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College London.
“It’s a bit like the situation we find ourselves in with the vaccine, we always have to stick to public health measures and not become too dependent on the drugs,” he explained.