‘May really be a game changer’: Cleveland Clinic doctor hopeful after FDA approves drug to fight obesity

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CLEVELAND (WJW) – There’s a new weapon in the fight against obesity in America with the approval of a new drug by the FDA on Friday.

Dr. W. Scott Butsch, Director of Obesity Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic‘s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, says he is excited by the news. 

“I think we have to understand that obesity is a chronic disease and that we need to take it seriously,” Butsch said.

Wegovy, is a higher dose of the diabetes drug semaglutide. 

“This medication mimics a hormone that comes from our digestive tract, specifically our intestinal cells and it has the ability to signal the brain and send a fullness signal to the brain,” said Butsch.

He says it also slows the stomach from emptying and helps insulin do a better job at controlling blood sugar levels.

“The study population lost more than 15% body weight loss and a third of the patients lost more than 20% of their body weight, which clearly is more than double that of other obesity medications that are on the market currently,” Butsch said.

The study was conducted over 16 months. 

“May cause mostly gastrointestinal side effects and that would be nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,” Butsch said on the main side effects.

Wegovy is the first chronic weight management drug approved since 2014. 

“I think this is a new class of medications that really have shown impressive efficacy and safety data and will be on market for years to come,” Butsch said.

Butsch says he hopes this study and approval helps remove the stigma for the more than 40% of U.S. adults living with obesity.

“It’s not because they’re eating a bag of chips, it’s not because they’re sitting on a couch in front of a TV,” Butsch said. “It’s because there’s a disfunction of a very normal regulatory system that is built into all of our bodies to regulate our body fat.”

He says there are also financial barriers to appropriate obesity care. 

“In this state and other states in the country, very few insurance companies believe that obesity is a chronic disease and thus cover adequate and appropriate obesity options,” the doctor said.

WJW photo

Butsch hopes this approval helps spur people to address their weight disorders and providers to take obesity seriously. 

“For many, these medications may really be a game changer and get them down to a normal body weight,” Butsch said.

Wegovy is injected once weekly. Doctors say dropping even five percent of body weight can boost energy, and bring down blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

To learn more about the FDA approval of Wegovy click here.

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