Drugmaker Reports Positive Results from Weight-loss Pill

    07 July 2023

    Drugmaker Novo Nordisk says tests show good weight loss results from a daily pill version of its diabetes treatments.

    The company sells the drug semaglutide under the names Wegovy and Ozempic. It is currently available only as a weekly injection.

    But some people are afraid of needles. So, Novo Nordisk has been testing how the drug works when taken by mouth.

    FILE - A box of Ozempic, a semaglutide injection drug used for treating type 2 diabetes and made by Novo Nordisk, is seen at a Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, U.S. March 29, 2023. (REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo)
    FILE - A box of Ozempic, a semaglutide injection drug used for treating type 2 diabetes and made by Novo Nordisk, is seen at a Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, U.S. March 29, 2023. (REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo)

    Wegovy and Ozempic have gotten a lot of attention in the last year for helping people lose weight. The government has approved the drugs to treat people with the disease diabetes. But weight loss doctors also give the medication to overweight people who do not have diabetes.

    Novo Nordisk said Sunday that two 16-month studies showed good results when people took a daily pill instead of a weekly shot.

    One study followed 1,600 overweight adults who were already being treated for diabetes. They took a pill version of the drug each day. They lost between seven and nine kilograms.

    The other study looked at 660 overweight people who had a weight-related disease other than diabetes. Those people took a daily pill containing 50 milligrams of the medication. They lost about 16 kilograms.

    The writers of the study said the results of the second group were similar to those who received the Wegovy injection once per week.

    Novo Nordisk said it expects to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the pills for weight loss later this year.

    Some of the people in the study reported side effects including intestinal problems, sick stomach and diarrhea.

    Daniel Bessen is a weight loss doctor in Denver. He was not involved with the study, but he treats patients who use weight loss drugs. He said, if you ask people, "'Would you rather take a pill or an injection?' People overwhelmingly prefer a pill."

    He added, however, that people might not feel the same way if the pills are more costly than the injections. He said cost and availability are the most important issues for people when deciding which drugs to take.

    Katherine Saunders is a weight loss doctor at Weill Cornell Health in New York City. She said people will be "thrilled" with the ability to take a pill.

    Novo Nordisk already has a pill form of semaglutide that is used for diabetes. It is called Rybelsus. But it contains less semaglutide than Wegovy.

    Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford is an expert in treating overweight people at Massachusetts General Hospital. She does not think the availability of a daily pill will change the habits of many people who already use the injections. She said, "A lot of people like the ease of taking a medication once a week."

    She also said some people might prefer the shots to a pill that needs to be taken 30 minutes before eating or drinking each morning.

    Paul Morer is 56 years old. He said he has lost about 40 kilograms using Wegovy and does not mind the injection. "I do it on Saturday, it's part of my routine," he said. "I don't even feel the needle," Morer added.

    Some people, however, think the availability of a pill will make it more difficult for obese people to be accepted. Tigress Osborn is the leader of an activist group called the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

    The news of a weight loss pill, she said, may make it hard for people who are overweight to escape the feeling that "your body is wrong, and it should change."

    The drug companies Eli Lilly and Pfizer are also working on a pill version of their diabetes medications for weight loss.

    Many of these drugs are so popular for weight loss that they have become hard to get. They are also very costly – some can be over $1,000 per month. Novo Nordisk said it could not predict the cost of their pill. The company also said injectable Wegovy will continue to be hard to get until at least September.

    I'm Dan Friedell. And I'm Ashley Thompson.

    Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a story by The Associated Press.


    Words in This Story

    pill –n. a small, round, solid amount of medicine or vitamin that is taken by mouth

    rather adv. a term used to declare one thing you would prefer over something else when given a choice

    overwhelming – adj. something that is larger or greater than something else

    afford–v. the ability to pay for something

    factor–n. one of the things considered when comparing two items in order to choose which one is better

    available–adj. a measure of how common something is

    thrilled–adj. very pleased or excited

    habit–n. something a person does daily or often

    routine–n. something a person does daily or often