Over the past few months, I have been working with mdBriefCase, a major provider of free online accredited continuing medical education, to produce interactive modules for obesity management.
The modules are aimed at practitioners working in primary care and pharmacists and align closely with the Canadian Obesity Network’s 5As of Obesity Management framework.
The accredited course (Mainpro M1 and MOC Section 1 or 3 credits) is available free of charge to all Canadian Health Professionals.
To access the course for physicians and allied health practitioners on mdBriefCase – click here
To access the course for pharmacists on rxBriefCase – click here
Readers may recall a previous post on the remarkable efficacy of beloranib, a methionine aminopeptidase 2 (MetAP2 ) inhibitor, in patients with hypothalamic obesity.
Now, a paper by Dennis Kim and colleagues present the results of a phase II study in individuals with “simple” obesity, published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.
The study included 147 participants with moderate obesity, who were randomised to 0.6, 1.2, and 2.4 mg beloranib or placebo for 12 weeks, with no specific diet or exercise recommendations.
At 12 weeks, participants had on average lost between 5.5 and 10.9 Kg in a dose-dependent fashion.
This reduction in body weight was associated with relevant improvements in waist circumference, lipids and blood pressure.
Adverse effects included dose-dependent increase in sleep latency and mild to moderate gastrointestinal symptoms.
Beloranib is an investigational weight loss therapy with a novel mechanism of action. This study assessed the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of beloranib treatment for obesity.
This is certainly a most remarkable degree of weight loss seen at 12 weeks and it will be interesting to see the results of the longer-term studies that are currently underway.
Disclaimer: I have received consulting honararia from Zafgen, the maker of belanorib.
Pregnancy in women after undergoing bariatric surgery are by no means uncommon. There is even some evidence from case series to suggest that babies born to mothers, who have undergone surgery may be less likely to become obese or experience the cardiometabolic complications of obesity.
This risk needs to be balanced against potential risks the known adverse effects of gastric bypass surgery on the metabolism of iron, vitamin B12, and folate,
Now a paper by Karl Johansson and colleagues, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that this may well be the case.
The researchers identified 627,693 singleton pregnancies in the Swedish Medical Birth Register from 2006 through 2011, of which 670 occurred in women who had previously undergone bariatric surgery and for whom presurgery weight was documented.
They found that pregnancies after bariatric surgery, as compared with matched control pregnancies, were associated with lower risks of gestational diabetes (1.9% vs. 6.8%; odds ratio, 0.25) and a lower incidence of large-for-gestational-age infants (8.6% vs. 22.4%; odds ratio, 0.33).
These potentially beneficial outcomes for the infant were counterbalanced by a two-fold increase in the likelihood of having a small-for-gestational-age infants (15.6% vs. 7.6%; odds ratio, 2.20) and a somewhat shorter gestation (mean difference -4.5 days)
Also, the risk of stillbirth or neonatal death was 1.7% versus 0.7% (odds ratio, 2.39).
No differences were found in the frequency of congenital malformations.
Bariatric surgery was associated with reduced risks of gestational diabetes and excessive fetal growth, shorter gestation, an increased risk of small-for-gestational-age infants, and possibly increased mortality.
Thus, the authors conclude that,
“…a history of bariatric surgery was associated with reduced risks of gestational diabetes and large-for-gestational-age infants.”
Nevertheless, they do recommend increased surveillance during pregnancy and the neonatal period, as bariatric surgery may also be associated with small-for-gestational-age infants, a shorter length of gestation, and potentially an increased risk of stillbirth or neonatal death.
Thus, soon, Canadians looking for medical treatment for obesity will soon have two prescription drugs available to them – the almost two decades old orlistat (Xenical®) and the soon to be launched liraglutide 3 mg (Saxenda®).
The differences between the two drugs could not be bigger. While orlistat works by inhibiting fat digestion and therefore reduces the number of calories absorbed from fat in the gut, liraglutide is a close analogue to human glucagon-like peptide 1, a gut hormone known to play a key role in insulin secretion and appetite regulation.
Because liraglutide is a peptide, it comes as a once daily injection, not unlike insulin. As an injectable prescription drug, Saxenda is not meant to be taken by anyone, who wants to quickly lose a few pounds. In fact, it takes several weeks of careful uptitration before you even reach the recommended dose for treating obesity – and, as with any obesity medication, you have to stay on it to keep the weight off.
According to Health Canada,
Saxenda® s indicated as an adjunct to a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management in adult patients with an initial body mass index (BMI) of:
- 30 kg/m2 or greater (obese), or;
- 27 kg/m2 or greater (overweight) in the presence of at least one weight-related comorbidity (e.g., hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or dyslipidemia);
and who have failed a previous weight management intervention.
While seeing this approval is certainly a major step forward in our ability to medically treat obesity, liraglutide is neither effective for everyone nor will everyone tolerate it (the most common adverse effect is nausea). So, hopefully, this is only the first of several new anti-obesity drugs that we can expect to see in Canada in the coming years.
After all, there is no reason why we should not one day have as many drugs to treat obesity, as we have to treat other chronic diseases (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, etc.).
Disclaimer: I have received honoraria as a speaker and consultant from Novo Nordisk, the maker of Saxenda®.
This week I will be giving a key note address on the use of the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (and the shortcomings of BMI) at the 2015 Minimally Invasive Surgery Symposium (MISS) in Las Vegas.
Without doubt, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery has revolutionised bariatric surgery – what was once a messy, life-threatening operation is now an elegant procedure, which usually has patients up and about the next day.
But are the BMI-based indications for bariatric surgery still the best way to go? Not when we have better systems like the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS) to determine how “sick” someone is rather than just how “big”.
This morning, in a separate presentation, I will also be providing an extensive overview on the efficacy and safety of the modern anti-obesity medications that have recently become available in the US.
While these medications may still not help patients achieve or maintain quite the degree of weight loss seen with surgery, they are certainly viable treatment options for individuals with less severe obesity or those unwilling or unable to undergo surgery.
Although evidence for this is still scarce, these medications may well also come to play a role in helping prevent the weight gain that some patients experience after surgery.
If nothing else, minimally invasive bariatric surgeons should certainly be aware of the available medical treatments as they counsel their patients about the pros and cons of surgery.
Las Vegas, NV