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Weight Management Drug Saxenda Could Delay or Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Updated: 8/14/21 4:00 amPublished: 6/22/17
By Payal Marathe

The latest evidence on  Saxenda shows that three years of treatment with the drug lowers risk for type 2 diabetes by an impressive 79%

Saxenda, a daily injectable GLP-1 agonist for chronic weight management, may offer an additional advantage beyond weight loss – namely, the delay or prevention of type 2 diabetes.

The latest results from the SCALE Obesity and Prediabetes three-year extension trial showed that people who took Saxenda once-a-day for three years, in addition to making healthy changes to diet and exercise, were a whopping 79% less likely to be diagnosed with a new case of type 2 diabetes in that time frame compared to people who changed their diet and exercise alone (the placebo group). Looking at the data another way, a daily dose of Saxenda was 2.7 times as likely to delay type 2 diabetes as placebo.

For some time now, experts on diabetes and prediabetes have been collecting evidence that supports Saxenda’s protective effects against the onset of type 2 diabetes. Research shows that 5-10% weight loss is a good way to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes, and earlier results from the SCALE trial show that this drug can help many lose that much body weight. Participants taking Saxenda also had higher scores on quality of life evaluations, which gauge people’s physical function, self-esteem, sexual life, public distress, and work.

With this latest data now published in a respected scientific journal, Saxenda could become more recognized as a medicine for diabetes prevention. However, no drugs are specifically FDA-approved for the treatment of prediabetes, even the very well researched pill metformin (which showed a 31% reduction in developing diabetes, based on the Diabetes Prevention Program). As a result, it will be likely very difficult to get insurance coverage for drugs that treat prediabetes, and high out-of-pocket costs will further limit the number of people able to access them.

On the safety front, over the course of three years in the SCALE study, 15% of participants in the Saxenda group experienced a serious health problem compared to 13% of people in the placebo group. However, the 2% difference was not statistically significant – meaning it could be due to chance – and no serious safety concerns arose during the study.

Intensive lifestyle intervention, like that provided by the National Diabetes Prevention Program, is another option for people with prediabetes hoping to sidestep a type 2 diabetes diagnosis – get more details about programs here.

[Photo credit: Norvo Nordisk]

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About the authors

Payal Marathe joined diaTribe's sister organization Close Concerns as an associate in 2016 after graduating magna cum laude from Yale University, where she studied Neuroscience and Psychology. As an undergraduate,... Read the full bio »