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Semaglutide - New Diabetes Medication With Superior Diabetes Control And Weight Loss - Now Approved In Canada

>> Monday, January 15, 2018

In the current era of type 2 diabetes, we are fortunate to have many different medications to choose from to help people control their blood sugars, choosing the medication(s) that fit each individual's unique health situation best.   In the last decade or so, we have developed diabetes medications that can avoid two unwanted side effects of some of the older diabetes medications: weight gain (with some causing weight loss), and low blood sugars.

Health Canada has just approved a new medication, called semaglutide, which is not only superior to any other medication it has been tested against for blood sugar control, but also causes more weight loss than any other medication on the market.

Semaglutide (trade name Ozempic) is a GLP1 receptor agonist, which works by stimulating the pancreas to increase insulin release and suppress the production of a hormone called glucagon, and also acts as an appetite suppressant in the hunger/fullness centre of the brain.  It is a once weekly treatment given by injection under the skin.  It reduces hemoglobin A1C (the diabetes report card) by up to 1.8%, and reduces weight in people with diabetes by up to 6.4 kg (14 lb) in the clinical trials that have been conducted.

In terms of side effects, like other GLP1 receptor agonists that are already available (including liraglutide (Victoza), dulaglutide (Trulicity) and exenatide (Bydureon or Byetta), it temporarily slows down stomach emptying, so can cause nausea, constipation, or diarrhea, which usually goes away after a few weeks, if it occurs.  Also similar to other GLP1s, there is a low risk of pancreatitis.

Unique to semaglutide, there was an increase in diabetic eye complications seen in the largest clinical trial (in which I was an investigator), which is thought to be due to the power of semaglutide to greatly improve diabetes control (we have seen occasional temporary worsening of diabetic eye disease in studies of other medications, including insulin, when there is a big and rapid drop in blood sugars).  This risk is higher in people with existing diabetes eye complications.  However, long term improvement in diabetes control decrease the risk of diabetes eye complications overall.

Semaglutide has also been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in people with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease - now the fourth diabetes medication available in Canada to show this benefit.  The full product monograph, with a full description of clinical trials and potential side effects, is available here.

Semaglutide is currently being studied as an obesity treatment as well, in people without diabetes, but is not yet approved for this indication.

Disclaimer: I am involved in research trials of semaglutide for type 2 diabetes and obesity.  I receive honoraria as a continuing medical education speaker and consultant from the makers of semaglutide (Novo Nordisk). 

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen © 2018


Are Less People With Overweight Or Obesity Trying To Lose Weight?

>> Monday, January 8, 2018

As we look forward into a new year, it is also worthwhile to cast a glance backwards in time to understand how perceptions and attitudes towards weight loss may be changing, in the face of a landscape where obesity is on the rise.

One of the most read 2017 studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association used the American National Health And Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) data to assess whether there has been any change in the percentage of people with overweight or obesity (defined as BMI of 25 or greater) trying to lose weight during the time frames of 1988-1994, 1999-2004, and 2009-2014.

Upon analysis of the data from 27,350 people aged 20-59, they found that the percentage of people with overweight or obesity increased over time, from 52.7% in 1988-1994, to 65.6% in 2009-2014.

The percentage of people trying to lose weight decreased during the same period, from 55.7% in 1988-1994, to 49.2% in 2009-2014.

So why would the proportion of people trying to lose weight be decreasing, while obesity is actually on the rise? 

Well, we know that there has been a generational shift in perceptions of body weight norms - in other words, people with overweight are less likely to classify themselves as such as they did in years past, because overweight may be perceived more like the 'new normal'.  So if people who carry excess weight perceive themselves to be of a healthy weight, they would be less inclined to try to lose weight.

The authors of this study suggest that the length of time that people struggle with obesity may be a factor - the longer people live with obesity, the more frustrated they may be come with unsuccessful weight loss attempts and thus less likely to try to manage their weight.

I think the issues go even deeper - and likely have much to do with barriers to effective obesity care that we know exist.  The ACTION study in USA highlighted some of these important barriers that needed to be addressed.  Data collection for the ACTION study in Canada (for which I am an author and member of the Steering Committee) is now complete; we are currently working hard to put together and publish our results, to better understand barriers that exist, and how we as a country can overcome these barriers to better help Canadians with weight management.   

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen © 2018


Reflections - Hot Topics 2017

>> Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!! As we ring in the start of 2018, let's first reflect back on some of the most popular DrSue topics from 2017:

1.  Low Carb Diets: What are they? Do they work?  And what if I have diabetes?

2.  How successful is gastric bypass surgery 12 years later? 

3.  Are the tides turning on artificial sweeteners: could they cause weight gain?

4.  The scoop on intermittent fasting.

5.  Canada's Report Card On Access To Obesity Treatment 

Follow me on twitter! @drsuepedersen © 2018



I am excited that you have arrived at my site, and I hope you are too - consider this the first step towards a Healthier New You!! As a medical doctor, Endocrinologist, and obesity specialist, I am absolutely passionate about helping people with weight management. Though there is certainly no magic cure for obesity, there IS a successful treatment plan out there for you - it is all about understanding the elements that contribute to your personal weight struggle, and then finding the treatment plan that suits your needs and your lifestyle. The way to finding your personal solution is to learn as much as you can about obesity: how our toxic environment has shaped us into an overweight society; the diversity of contributors to obesity; and what the treatment options out there are really all about. Knowledge Is Power!!

Are you ready to change your life? Let's begin our journey together, towards a healthier, happier you!!

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