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Saxenda no silver bullet for weight loss, doctors warn
  • By Kim Yun-mi
  • Published 2019.04.05 16:21
  • Updated 2019.04.05 16:21
  • comments 0

Obesity specializing physicians are warning against the growing popularity of weight control treatment Saxenda, developed and sold by Novo Nordisk.

Unless obese patients correct their lifestyles, the drug does not guarantee the expected weight loss effect, they said. Moreover, it is difficult to anticipate the same efficacy in Koreans as proved in overseas studies, the doctors added.

Various online advertisements promoting obesity treatment Saxenda

Critics have repeatedly raised the issues of Saxenda being illegally advertised, prescribed and distributed. A pharmacist group also expressed concerns over the risk of abuse of obesity treatment. However, Saxenda’s popularity continued to grow in the domestic market.

On various internet portals and YouTube, searching for Saxenda-related content leads to ads and promotional pages, although the treatment needs a doctor’s prescription. Although Novo Nordisk sent a notice to healthcare professionals to use the drug properly within the scope of approval, some hospitals and clinics still promote Saxenda as “a new obesity treatment with excellent efficacy.”

Park Min-seon, a professor of family medicine at Seoul National University Hospital, said she once had a woman patient who asked her to prescribe Saxenda even though the patient’s body mass index (BMI) was only 24.

Saxenda can be used for an overweight patient whose early BMI is 30 or more, or as a supplementary drug when reducing calories in diet and increasing physical activity in obese patients whose initial BMI is between 27 and 29.

Saxenda approval included an assumption that patients would correct their lifestyles.

If they do not improve diet or increase physical activity, the effect of the weight loss will diminish, Park said. In such a case, discontinuing Saxenda would make patients gain weight again, she added.

The Association of Pharmacists for Healthy Society noted that the clinical design for Saxenda’s approval did not target Korean patients. Among the patients who participated in the SCALE trial on Saxenda, 85 percent or 3,731 patients were Caucasians, and 3.6 percent, Asians.

BMI was 38.2. Such figures are much higher than those of Koreans who want obesity treatment for cosmetic purposes. In the trial, the proportion of patients with a BMI between 27 and 29, who are most similar to Korean patients, was less than 3 percent.

In such highly obese group who accompanied lifestyle correction, Saxenda helped reduce 8.4kg on average at the 56th week of the treatment.

“Considering that Korean women weight about 50-70kg on average, it is difficult to expect Saxenda to show its weight loss effect among Koreans,” Park said. She also pointed out that patients should not overlook the side effects of Saxenda.

“Even if a patient gets Saxenda prescription according to the approval condition, he or she may have symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In serious cases, some patients discontinue the medication,” Park said.

If a person experiences a side effect after getting unauthorized Saxenda treatment, he or she should immediately stop the drug, the SNUH professor added.


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