What to know about prescription drugs promising weight loss - Albuquerque Journal

What to know about prescription drugs promising weight loss

WeightWatchers, the 60-year-old diet firm, announced this week it would acquire a telehealth company whose providers prescribe anti-obesity drugs for growing numbers of eager online subscribers.

The $132 million deal with Sequence is the just the latest commercial push into the red-hot market for prescription drugs that promise significant weight loss. For months, the diabetes drug Ozempic has been touted on social media by celebrities even though it’s not approved for weight loss. The demand for it sparked shortages.

WeightWatchers will be introducing its roughly 3.5 million subscribers to a new generation of medications that go beyond behavioral changes like gym workouts and diet tracking. Obesity experts say the drugs may revolutionize treatment of the disease that affects 42% of American adults.

Here’s a look at the promise of these new medications and cautions about their use.


The drugs that have generated most buzz are from a class of medications called GLP-1 agonists. Two of the most popular, Ozempic and Wegovy, are different doses of the same drug, semaglutide.

Ozempic has been used for six years to treat type 2 diabetes and is not approved for weight loss. Wegovy was approved in 2021 to treat obesity in adults and late last year to treat kids and teens 12 and older.

Doctors prescribe the medications to people with diabetes alone, or to people who are obese or who are overweight with additional health problems. Most of these types of drugs are delivered through weekly injections.

Supply problems and soaring demand last year led to a shortage of the drugs, but Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer, said those have been replenished.


They mimic the action of a gut hormone that kicks in after people eat, boosting the release of insulin, blocking sugar production in the liver and suppressing appetite.

A newer drug, called tirzepatide, mimics the action of two hormones for even greater effect. The Eli Lilly and Co. drug, sold under the brand name Mounjaro, is now approved to treat diabetes, but the FDA granted fast-track status to review it to treat obesity. A decision is expected this spring.

With lower appetite and a greater feeling of fullness, people using these drugs eat less and lose weight.


In a clinical trial, adults who took Wegovy saw a mean weight loss of nearly 35 pounds, or about 15% of their initial body weight. Adolescents lost about 16% of their body weight.

A clinical trial of Mounjaro, which is still being studied, saw mean weight loss of 15% to 21% of body weight depending on the dose, compared with a weight loss of about 3% for people taking placebo, or dummy drug.


In a typical weight-loss program where participants rely only on diet and exercise, about a third of people enrolled will lose 5% or more of their body weight, noted Dr. Louis Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Most people find it difficult to lose weight because of the body’s biological reactions to eating less, he said. There are several hormones that respond to reduced calorie intake to increase hunger and maintain body mass.

“There is a real physical phenomenon,” he said. “There is a resistance mechanism that is a coordinated effort by the body to prevent you from losing weight.”


The most common side effects are short-lived gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and constipation.

Other possible side effects include thyroid tumors, cancer, inflammation of the pancreas, kidney and gallbladder and eye problems. People with a family history of certain thyroid cancers or a rare, genetic endocrine disorder should avoid the drugs.


These new medications could be an effective part of a multifaceted approach to weight loss, said Dr. Amy Rothberg, an University of Michigan endocrinologist who directs a virtual weight management and diabetes program called Rewind.

But she worries that programs like WeightWatchers are primarily interested in boosting enrollment — and profits.

“My hope is that they do their due diligence and have real monitoring of the patients taking the drugs,” she said.

It’s important to make sure that patients are taking the drugs for the intended purpose, to make sure there’s no reason they shouldn’t take the drugs and that they’re monitored for side effects, she said.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Home » Business » Health & Safety » What to know about prescription drugs promising weight loss

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
Ford recalls 1.5M vehicles to fix brake hoses, wiper ...
Health & Safety
DETROIT (AP) -- Ford is recalling ... DETROIT (AP) -- Ford is recalling more than 1.5 million vehicles in the U.S. in two actions to fix leaky brake hoses and windshield ...
New COVID origins data point to raccoon dogs in ...
Health & Safety
BEIJING (AP) -- Genetic material collected ... BEIJING (AP) -- Genetic material collected at a Chinese market near where the first human cases of COVID-19 were identified show raccoon dog DNA ...
Honda recalling 500,000 vehicles to fix seat belt problem
Health & Safety
DETROIT (AP) -- Honda is recalling ... DETROIT (AP) -- Honda is recalling a half-million vehicles in the U.S. and Canada because the front seat belts may not latch properly. The ...
Health data breach hitting Congress 'could be extraordinary'
Health & Safety
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House leaders say ... WASHINGTON (AP) -- House leaders say the impact of a hack of health insurance marketplace used by members of Congress 'could be extraordinary,' exposing ...
US probes Tesla Autopilot, steering wheels that can come ...
Health & Safety
DETROIT (AP) -- U.S. safety regulators ... DETROIT (AP) -- U.S. safety regulators are turning up the heat on Tesla, announcing investigations into steering wheels coming off some SUVs and a ...
What to know about prescription drugs promising weight loss
Health & Safety
WeightWatchers, the 60-year-old diet firm, announced ... WeightWatchers, the 60-year-old diet firm, announced this week it would acquire a telehealth company whose providers prescribe anti-obesity drugs for growing numbers of eager ...
FDA: Two more eyedrop brands recalled due to risks
Health & Safety
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. health officials ... WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. health officials are alerting consumers about two more recalls of eyedrops due to contamination risks that could lead to vision ...
Final New Mexico COVID emergency order to expire March ...
ABQnews Seeker
Declaration began March 11, 2020, and ... Declaration began March 11, 2020, and NM is one of five states that still have such orders
China dismisses FBI statement on COVID-19 lab leak theory
Health & Safety
BEIJING (AP) -- For the second ... BEIJING (AP) -- For the second day in a row, China on Wednesday dismissed U.S. suggestions that the COVID-19 pandemic may have been triggered ...