Saxenda is a treatment for diabetes that could also help people looking to lose weight. People who injected the drug every day for a year lost an average of 18.5 pounds, compared with six pounds among a control group taking a placebo.

Liraglutide (popularly known as Saxenda) was studied in 3,700 overweight and obese people who have not been diagnosed with diabetes. However, around half the subjects in the study exhibited prediabetes. Subjects in the study were divided into an experimental group of 2,500 participants who received injections of the drug, and a control population of 1,200 people were provided with a placebo. All the subjects in the experiment were provided with lifestyle counseling aimed at teaching methods to promote weight loss.

After 56 weeks, 63 percent of subjects receiving the drug lost 5 percent or more of their body weight, while 33 percent lost at least 10 percent of their initial body mass. This compared with 27 percent and 10 percent, respectively, among participants receiving a placebo.  

"It is a very effective drug. It seems to be as good as any of the others on the market, so it adds another possibility for doctors to treat patients who are having trouble either losing weight or maintaining weight loss once they get the weight off," Xavier Pi-Sunyer from the Columbia University Medical Center said.

Liraglutide, delivered at higher doses than in Saxenda, acts in a similar fashion to the natural hormone glucagon-like peptide-1, reducing hunger and reducing the rate at which food is absorbed into the small intestines from the stomach. It has been available as a treatment for diabetes since 2010 and for weight loss since 2014.

Novo Nordisk, manufacturer of the drug, funded the current research into its role in weight loss.

However, use of the drug for most dieters is unlikely, as the cost of the treatment is around $1,000 a month, and the drug must be delivered through daily injections. Many people taking the drug also experienced diarrhea and nausea, although the upset stomach symptom usually fades after four to six weeks on the drug. Subjects taking the drug would likely need to do so for the rest of their lives, and most insurance plans do not cover liraglutide as a means of treating obesity.

Roughly two-thirds of all Americans are overweight or obese, a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine reported. Many health care officials believe the United States is currently in the midst of an epidemic of obesity. A loss of even 5 percent of body weight (10 pounds for a 200-pound person) has been found to have a positive effect on health.

Research into the effectiveness of liraglutide promoting weight loss was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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