First New Anti-Obesity Drug in Canada in Two Decades

saxendaOn Friday, Health Canada approved the first new anti-obesity drug for Canadian in nearly two decades.

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.).

Edmonton, AB

Disclaimer: I have received honoraria as a speaker and consultant from Novo Nordisk, the maker of Saxenda®.