Are drugs the answer to the world's obesity problem?

More than half the world's population could be overweight in the next decade or so

Needle injection.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Gettyimages)

A new class of weight-loss drugs is being hailed as a miracle injection that helps people shed pounds of stubborn weight. Doctors and health experts are excited about the treatments, seeing them as a powerfully effective way to tackle the world's growing obesity epidemic. A recent report from The World Obesity Federation predicts that 51 percent of the world, over 4 billion people, will be obese or overweight within the next 12 years if significant action isn't taken. The NGO found that obesity rates were rising "particularly quickly among children and in lower-income countries," per CNN.

Researchers discovered the latest generation of weight-loss drugs somewhat accidentally. Pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk developed semaglutide to treat type 2 diabetes, which the FDA approved as an injectable called Ozempic. When patients taking Ozempic started to report significant weight loss, the company produced a drug specifically for that purpose, with a higher dose of semaglutide, under the name Wegovy. In 2021, the FDA approved Wegovy "for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition," like high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics added the drug to new guidelines for treating childhood obesity in adolescents aged 12 and over. A study showed that patients using Wegovy lost an average of 15 percent of their body weight. Another approved diabetes treatment, tirzepatide, which is marketed under the name Mounjaro by Eli Lilly, helped patients lose an average of 21 percent of their body weight, according to a study.

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