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Weight loss drugs – the science

A new suite of injectable weight loss drugs – GLP-1 receptor agonists – has arrived on the scene in the last few months.  NICE recommended semaglutide as an option for weight management in March (and didn’t recommend tirzepatide as a treatment for type 2 diabetes in June, saying more evidence is needed).  We’ve also seen the results of several clinical trials of these drugs having been published recently too.

But where do these medicines fit in the wider landscape of obesity management, prevention and treatment – are they a real game changer or just one of many tools in the box?  How strong is the evidence on the effectiveness of these medicines?  Are there pros and cons of ‘medicalising’ obesity?

We’d had quite a number of media enquiries on these drugs over recent weeks and months so we brought together a panel of experts – some of whom were involved in the trials of these drugs and have worked with the companies.

Journalists were invited to dial in to this briefing to ask their questions and hear the panel discuss things such as:

– what do we know from evidence about how well these drugs work compared to e.g. bariatric surgery, supervised weight management support, or total diet replacement?

– are there some people the drugs wouldn’t be suitable for?

– what happens after the 2 years recommended for semaglutide treatment?

– what can we learn from the more established use of these sorts of drugs in people with type 2 diabetes?


Speakers included:

Prof Barbara McGowan, Professor of Endocrinology and Diabetes, King’s College London; and Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital

Prof John Wilding, Professor of Medicine, Department of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine, University of Liverpool

Prof Carel Le Roux, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, Ulster University; and Professor of Experimental Pathology, University College Dublin

Prof Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow

Dr Samantha Scholtz, Consultant Psychiatrist for Bariatrics, West London NHS Trust, and Imperial Weight Centre, Imperial College NHS Trust

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