DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A newly approved drug to treat obesity will be assembled and distributed in the Triangle. According to the CDC, more than 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Doctors said there’s a need for more ways to treat weight-related health issues.
Dr. Will Yancy, the director of the Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center, said: “Research shows obesity or lifestyle might be the number one preventable cause of mortality in the United States — above and beyond cigarettes at this point.”
For the first time in seven years, the FDA approved a new drug to manage weight. It’s already used in lower doses to treat diabetes.
“It was a medicine I steered people to if I was treating them for diabetes because I knew of the weight-loss effects,” Yancy said.
Now that the FDA has approved it for weight loss, he said it will be a good fit for some patients who are dealing with obesity or weight-related health conditions.
Novo Nordisk makes the drug called Wegovy. The company’s facility in Clayton will play a big role in getting it to the public.
“The Novo Nordisk manufacturing facility in Clayton is where Wegovy’s going to be assembled, packaged, and distributed really to all wholesalers and pharmacies across the United States,” explained Jason Brett, Executive Director of Medical Affairs for Novo Nordisk Inc.
The drugmaker said clinical trials showed substantial weight loss.
“In patients without diabetes, we saw about 15 percent weight loss,” Brett said. “It induces satiety and fullness and reduces hunger, so we eat less.”
Yancy said patients must maintain a healthy lifestyle while taking the medication. There are some side effects and the medicine isn’t for everyone.
“The main side effects are GI-related, so people can have nausea some diarrhea,” Yancy said. “In studies done in animals, there was an increased risk of thyroid cancer. Fortunately, that hasn’t been seen in humans, but there are still those cautions there is a very small increased risk of pancreatitis.”
Yancy emphasized that obesity carries serious risks to someone’s health, including diabetes, sleep apnea, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney disease.
“The list goes on and on,” he said.
The medication is expected to be available by the end of the month. One month’s supply, which includes four weekly injections, will cost more than $1,300. The drugmaker said insurance coverage will be limited to start with but it is working with insurance companies in hopes that more will eventually cover it.