A weight-loss drug that’s been shown to encourage weight loss in people with obesity is now available for children as young as 12 in the US. Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug Wegovy for use in adolescents who are 12 years old or over, according to the drug maker Novo Nordisk.
Adolescents with a BMI in the top 5 percent for their age group will be able to receive a once-weekly injection of the drug along with a plan to reduce their calorie intake and increase levels of physical activity.
Wegovy (aka semaglutide) works by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone produced in the gut and released in response to food. It effectively tells the body your appetite has been satisfied and suppresses your hunger.
The drug was approved by the FDA for use in adults back in June 2021, but this latest approval will make it possible for doctors to prescribe it to some people with obesity under the age of 18.
The latest approval comes off the back of a phase 3a trial recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found adolescents receiving the drug experienced an average 16.1 percent loss in BMI, compared to a 0.6 percent increase in the placebo group.
“The prevalence of teen obesity in the US continues to rise, affecting teens and their families. Now, more than ever, we need new options to support teens,” Aaron S Kelly, PhD, Co-Director of the Center for Pediatric Obesity Medicine at the University of Minnesota, said in a statement.
“This FDA approval offers an additional tool to address this serious, chronic, progressive disease,” continued Kelly.
There’s decent research that has indicated it can be a useful tool to help people with obesity lose weight, but some experts have previously warned that no weight-loss drug should be considered a “magic bullet”. When commenting on a 2021 clinical trial of the drug in adults, researchers noted that there are still some reservations about the use of the drug.
“While drugs like this may prove useful in the short term for obtaining rapid weight loss in severe obesity, they are not a magic bullet for preventing or treating less severe degrees of obesity and public health measures that encourage behavioural changes such as regular physical activity and moderating dietary energy intake are still needed,” said Tom Sanders, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics, King’s College London.
“It is rather like the situation we are in with the vaccine, we still need to stick with public health measures and not become overdependent on medicines,” he explained.