Scientists at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom have discovered that the diabetes medication known as liraglutide can help obese and overweight type 2 diabetics lose weight.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Leicester researchers, led by Dr. Melanie Davies, examined data collected from 846 adult individuals who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. These participants also had a body mass index (BMI) of 27 kilograms per square meter (5.5 pounds per square foot) and over.
The research team then assigned the participants to receive randomized once-daily doses of three milligrams of liraglutide, 1.8 milligrams of liraglutide, or a placebo dosage.
After subjecting the participants to once-daily doses of three milligrams of liraglutide for close to a year, they lost an average of 6.4 kilograms (14 pounds) from the baseline, while those who were given the placebo dosage lost an average of 2.2 kilograms (4 pounds).
"The strength of this study is that it's a first major international trial looking at the dose of 3.0 mg of liraglutide specifically for weight loss in patients with diabetes, and thus provides us with evidence in this group," Davies said.
In December 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) approved the use of three milligrams of liraglutide for weight loss purposes for adults with a BMI of 30 kilogram per square meter (6.1 pounds per square foot) or higher.
The agency allowed its use for those who have a BMI of 27 kilograms per square meter (5.5 pounds per square foot) or higher and suffering from at least one medical condition related to weight.
Liraglutide was previously approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes using doses at 1.8 milligrams and 12 milligrams. The medication is included in a drug class called glucagon-like receptor 1 (GLP-1) agonists.
During the study, the researchers also encouraged the participants to follow a diet featuring an energy deficit of about 500 kilocalories every day, as well as an exercise regimen involving brisk walking for 150 minutes or more every week. The participants followed this program for 56 weeks.
The participants experienced adverse gastrointestinal events, such as diarrhea, constipation, vomiting and nausea. These events were reported to occur more frequently among those who received three milligrams of liraglutide compared to those who were given only 1.8 milligrams of the drug.
The researchers noted that there was no incident of pancreatitis recorded during the study, which is a particular safety concern for the use of GLP-1 agonists.
Davies and her colleagues, however, said that their research was not aimed at enabling definitive conclusions about safety to be made.
"The limitations are probably that the study is only a year and that we need to look at longer term follow up," Davies said.
"And we perhaps in the future would want to look at more intensive lifestyle interventions in combinations with liraglutide."
The research team stated that participants regained their lost weight after discontinuing the use of liraglutide. This suggests that continued use of the medication is needed to sustain the benefits observed in the study.