News, Culture & Society

Diabetes drug helps patients lose 12lb over 3 months

A type 2 diabetes drug may stop thousands of obese people from needing gastric bypasses, scientists claim.

US researchers at the Mayo Clinic found liraglutide, which controls appetite, helped patients lose 12lbs over three months on average.

The prescription-only drug, which is self-injected, helps to slow down the stomach from emptying – making patients feel fuller for longer.

American experts believe the drug could steer fat adults onto the right path and avoid the need of expensive weight loss operations.

Researchers found liraglutide, which controls appetite, helped patients lose 12lbs over three months on average

The number of NHS obesity operations has increased six-fold in ten years, figures show. Similar trends have been reported in the US.

A gastric bypass costs taxpayers up to £15,000 and there were 6,438 performed last year, costing a cash-strapped health service around £96 million.

Surgeons claim they are the most effective treatments for obesity and prevent diabetes and heart disease, saving the NHS millions of pounds. 

How was the study carried out? 

Mayo Clinic researchers published their paper, based on 40 adults, in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

The participants had BMIs within the healthy range, and were split into a placebo group or given liraglutide every day for five weeks.

Those given sugar pills lost an average of 6.6lbs when they were measured at the follow-up. The average weight loss was 12lbs in the liraglutide group. 


Almost 100,000 British teenagers are now so obese their weight problem cannot be reversed without surgery, experts warned last week.

Researchers found 2.4 per cent of 13 to 18-year-olds are ‘super obese’ – and argue they should be given free weight-loss surgery on the NHS.

If all 90,500 who meet the criteria for bariatric surgery – which costs around £6,000 – went under the knife, it could cost the taxpayers £543million.

Study leader Professor Russell Viner, of University College London, said that denying adolescents surgical intervention could cost the health service more in the long-term. 

What did the researchers say? 

Dr Michael Camilleri, study author, said: ‘Liraglutide appears to be very effective in inducing weight loss over three months of treatment.

‘We also found that liraglutide dramatically slowed stomach emptying.’

This process is when the stomach empties its contents into the small intestine for further digestion. Making this slower allows someone to feel fuller for longer.  

A predictor of weight loss 

Dr Camilleri said that weight loss could be predicted by measuring how well the stomach empties after two months on the drug.

He added: ‘Our findings are one example of the opportunity to individualize treatment based on the unique response of the patient.

‘Medications are often prescribed in patients with obesity for at least six months.

‘Making this determination after the first month has the potential to determine whether to continue the treatment or to stop relatively expensive treatment and move on to alternative approved therapy in accordance with guidelines.

‘These alternatives could include prescription of other medications, endoscopic devices or bariatric surgery.’ 

NICE doesn’t specifically recommend liraglutide as a weight loss treatment, but it says the drug has potential to help adults shed the pounds.

American drug regulators, the FDA, approved liraglutide, sold as Saxenda, three years ago in aiding weight loss.