WHO busts the myths about the best fat drugs on the market
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that people shouldn’t believe the hype that new weight loss drugs like Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy could solve the “pandemic” of obesity around the world.
The WHO’s head of nutrition, Francesco Branca, told Reuters, “These drugs are not a “silver bullet” for dealing with the rapid rise in obesity rates around the world.” The WHO is reviewing its guidelines for dealing with obesity for the first time in over 20 years.
The WHO’s head of nutrition and food safety said that the organization is first going over its rules for treating obese children and teens, and then it will update its rules for adults.
The last time the WHO put out global guidelines on this subject was in 2000. These guidelines are used as a guide by countries that don’t have the means to make their own plans.
As part of the work, the WHO has asked the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, Italy, to evaluate the evidence for the use of all drugs for children and teenagers, from older options like GSK’s Xenical to newer, more effective treatments like Wegovy and Eli Lilly and Co’s Mounjaro, Branca told Reuters.
“The way these drugs have been talked about, like ‘We’ve found a solution,’ is wrong,” said Branca. Drugs to treat obesity are important, but they must be “part of a comprehensive approach,” he said. “This is not a magic solution.”
Branca said that food and exercise, among other things, are still very important to help control obesity. The number of children and teens between the ages of 5 and 19 who are obese or overweight has gone up from 4% in 1975 to just over 18% in 2016. This means that more than 340 million people are now obese or overweight.
When Reuters asked Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly for a response, neither company answered right away.
Wegovy and Mounjaro were first made to help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. More recently, they have been shown to help people lose about 15% of their body weight, which has caught the attention of patients, investors, and even celebs.
GLP-1 agonists are a type of drug that is given by injection once a week. They work by changing the way the brain sends hunger signals and slowing the rate at which a person’s stomach fills, which makes them feel fuller for longer.
Studies show that most people will have to keep taking the drugs for the rest of their lives if they want to stay the same weight.
Wegovy is allowed for weight loss in the US and Europe, and Mounjaro should be approved in the US by the end of this year. Within a decade, there could be as many as 10 different drugs on the market, and sales are expected to reach $100 billion a year because of how much people want them.
U.S. medical groups are also looking at their guidelines for treating obesity to see how best to use Wegovy and similar drugs. Some specialists support using them for everyone, while others say they should be used first for high-risk patients with health problems like diabetes or heart disease that are made worse by being overweight.
Even though the long-term effects haven’t been studied yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics has said that these drugs should be used on obese children who are at least 12 years old.
The WHO said that the new version of its standards will be based on new science and a more solid method than the old ones. By the end of this year, the first draft of the new rules for managing children and teens should be ready.
Branca said that the researchers at Mario Negri and other schools that worked on the guidelines had been carefully checked out to make sure they didn’t have any conflicts of interest.
Novo Nordisk was kicked out of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry earlier this year because of how it marketed its drugs. For example, the association said that Novo Nordisk paid health professionals and gave them training to push its drug.
Branca said, “We really look into any possible conflicts of interest.”
He said that being overweight is a “rising epidemic.”
He said, “There are many reasons why we really need to act much more seriously and bravely.”