Jan 24, 2024 - Health

Many patients keep weight off after stopping anti-obesity meds: study

Illustration of measuring tape in a waste paper basket.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Most patients on a new class of anti-obesity medications kept at least some of the weight off up to a year after they stopped taking the medication, according to new data from Epic Research.

Why it matters: This appears to contradict previous studies that have indicated patients on drugs known as GLP-1 agonists need to stay on them to keep the weight off.

Driving the news: Epic says, however, its findings from nearly 40,000 patient records across 236 health systems are consistent with those previous studies — but it said the new research offers a more nuanced picture of patient outcomes. They also included patients prescribed the drugs for diabetes and not just weight loss.

  • The drugs' long-term benefits appear more favorable when examining this larger population and more granular data.
  • Researchers looked at weight loss up to 12 months out from patients stopping either the use of liraglutide, the active ingredient in Novo Nordisk's Victoza and Saxenda, or semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy.

Details: In the example of semaglutide, researchers looked at 20,274 patients who lost at least 5 pounds while they took the drug.

  • Nearly 20% of patients regained all the weight they had lost or more in the 12 months after stopping that drug, and another 26% regained more than a quarter of their original weight but were short of total regain.
  • About 20% of patients essentially maintained their loss, meaning they didn't regain or lose more than a quarter of their weight.
  • And more than 1 in 3 patients continued to lose weight in the 12 months after stopping the drug.

Our thought bubble: The study offers further insight amid the debate over the potential cost of putting so many patients on these pricey drugs long term.

  • It also suggests that even the many patients who stop taking the drugs due to side effects or cost may still reap some lasting benefit.
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