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Use caution around trendy weight loss drugs | The Star – Toronto Star

May 12th, 2023

The Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical company has recently submitted an application in the U.S. for Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval of its drug Mounjaro for weight reduction. Undoubtedly, approval from Health Canada will also be sought. Approval applications for similar drugs from other pharmaceutical companies, such as Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus, will likely follow.

Mounjaro was originally developed to assist obese individuals with Type 2 diabetes to regulate blood sugar levels. A noticeable secondary effect of the drug was weight loss in the obese participants in the experimental program. In the 72-week trial participants lost an average 16 to 22.5 per cent body weight (35 to 52 pounds) dependent upon the drug strength. These results were compared to an average loss of 3 per cent body weight of participants administered a placebo drug. This amounts to an average weight loss range of half to three-quarters of a pound per week in the Mounjaro group.

The drug appears to reduce hunger, and therefore food intake (chemical-induced dieting) as participants reported sensations of fullness and decreasing interest in food. This may be beneficial for individuals with health risks due to excessive body weight. However, for the drug to be used for those who are not obese as a quick means to reduce unwanted pounds may be problematic.

There are undesirable side effects to the drug: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation and stomach pain. As well, some very serious health risks, including: thyroid tumours, pancreatitis, and allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis and angioedema. And there is a possibility of development of long-term food fears, due to decreasing interest in food, which can lead to anorexia.

To date, there has been no research regarding long-term effects of using these drugs. In essence, those using the drugs now are part of an experiment in which the effects of long-term use will be determined.

Obesity and Type 2 diabetes are increasing in North America. The new obesity drugs may prove beneficial as a means to better control food intake and initiate undertaking a sound program of body weight reduction for obese individuals with Type 2 diabetes. However, there is a much larger market for selling a weight loss drug for those who are not obese.

This will be a financial windfall for the drug manufacturers, as the weight loss industry is a multibillion dollar industry. It has been suggested this drug may be the highest dollar grossing drug of all time. Estimated costs are approximately $1,000 (U.S.) per month for the weekly injections. Pretty high financial cost for losing less than a pound a week. And there is evidence of weight re-gain when participants go off the drug.

So, not only would this create a heavy individual financial burden, but it may lead to drug dependency for individuals undertaking repeat on-off weight loss cycling through use of the drug.

Financial help from provincial health insurance is possible for obese individuals, as weight loss is viewed as beneficial to physical and psychological health. However, for those who are not obese and are trying to lose the 10 to 30 pounds they have been struggling with, the costs may have to be borne by the individual.

Weekly weight loss in the amount produced by this drug is quite doable on a moderate diet/physical activity program. The drugs may be beneficial in creating initial success and serve as a motivator for continued action, but sustainable success must be achieved without the use of these drugs.

Dont be influenced by celebrities (paid) for promoting this drug as a quick means to decrease unwanted body weight, or by the advertisements of the drug companies suggesting it is the latest, and greatest, means to lose weight.

Be cautious about using obesity drugs to reduce body fat, as the health and financial risks may be greater than the reduced weight reward.

Roger Kelton is professor emeritus at the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University and the author of THinsight: How To Make Dieting Work.


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Use caution around trendy weight loss drugs | The Star - Toronto Star

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