Weight-loss drugs are being evaluated for their ability to treat conditions such as dementia and addiction, after a landmark study showed that Wegovy helped reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
LONDON Scientists have begun investigating whether so-called miracle obesity drugs could be used to treat conditions such as dementia and alcohol addiction, after recent trials pointed to the drugs’ effectiveness in treating serious health problems.
Late-stage trial data released last month by Novo Nordisk indicated that its weight-loss injection of Wegovy led to “large reductions” in heart failure-related symptoms among at-risk patients.
This comes weeks after the Danish pharmaceutical company published the results of its long-awaited “SELECT” study, which showed the drug’s role in reducing the risk of serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks or strokes.
The findings represent an important milestone as the company seeks to broaden awareness of its product, dubbed by some a “vanity drug”, and researchers hope they will bring positive news for other applications of the drugs.
“The results show that this drug can have health benefits far beyond the short term,” Christian Hendershot, director of the Clinical and Translational Research Program on Addiction at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told CNBC via Zoom.
A treatment for drug and alcohol abuse
Hendershot is a researcher investigating whether the appetite-regulating mechanisms at work in weight-loss drugs could be used to treat other conditions, such as alcohol and drug addiction.
Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Eli LillyMounjaro works by mimicking a natural gut hormone that helps regulate appetite in the brain, leading to weight loss. For this, they rely on active ingredients called semaglutide and liraglutide, respectively, which belong to a group of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists.
Data from preclinical trials have pointed out for several years to the effectiveness of the GLP-1 medication in reducing drug and alcohol intake among animals. Hendershot is now testing the predecessor of Ozempic Wegovy, used to treat type 2 diabetes, to see if these trends apply to humans as well.
“There is reason for optimism, especially given the reports. Now it’s our job to do research to validate these findings with clinical data,” said Hendershot, who expects to publish the first findings next year.
If broader applications of the drugs prove to be effective, the implications could be vast, according to Kyle Simmons, professor of pharmacology and physiology at Oklahoma State University, who cited early indications of the drugs’ effectiveness in reducing cravings for cocaine, amphetamines and opioids. .
Simmons is currently leading the Semaglutide Therapy for Alcohol Reduction (STAR) trial, a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that is being run in conjunction with a separate but similar study at the University of Baltimore.
“If these two studies are read and both are positive, it’s hard to overstate the effect this will have on the field,” he said.
Applications in Alzheimer’s disease
Some researchers are hopeful that the drugs could also have use cases in treating dementia and other cognitive disorders.
There is already evidence to suggest that GLP-1 drugs can reduce the accumulation of amyloid and tau in the brain, two proteins thought to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.
Now, an ongoing trial at the University of Oxford will test patients at risk of developing dementia, namely those with elevated levels of amyloid in the brain, to see whether the drugs lead to a reduction in tau accumulation and brain inflammation.
“We want to see if these drugs are interfering with the core pathology of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Ivan Koychev, senior clinical investigator, who is leading the study.
Elsewhere, others believe the drugs could have potential applications in treating polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a disorder that can cause irregular periods, hormone imbalances and fertility problems.
“Whether women with PCOS have positive results in terms of irregular menstruation and hirsutism [excess hair growth] despite the modest weight loss, it may underline the broader therapeutic potential of the drug,” said Harshal Deshmukh, consultant endocrinologist and senior clinical professor at the University of Hull, who is currently conducting one of these trials.
Implications for reward signaling
However, other possible cases of using weight loss drugs could exacerbate the obstacles already faced by patients using them: high costs and supply shortages.
Earlier this month, Novo Nordisk extended restrictions on starting doses of Wegovy due to production restrictions, while Eli Lilly warned of continued delays in Mounjaro production for the same reason.
Hendershot said his study wasn’t being affected by the shortage, but Simmons described it as a “significant concern.”
Meanwhile, concerns were raised about the drugs’ possible adverse effects after some patients reported thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen told a Reuters Newsmaker event last month that the number of suspected cases remained minimal relative to the drug’s broad reach. “When you have drugs that are used in millions of patients and in many different types of patients, you can run into different events,” he said.
However, Simmons said more research is still needed to understand the impact of such drugs on reward signaling in the brain. Their own research will test these signals by monitoring participants’ reward responses in a virtual reality simulation.
“Is this medication, because of its effects perhaps on the mesolimbic dopamine system, just decreasing the gain in reward signaling in a way that could promote anhedonia?” Simmons said. Anhedonia is a term used to describe a reduced ability to experience pleasure.
“If this drug is used by more and more people, if it starts to promote a loss of interest in pleasure more generally, that might not be a good thing, for example, for people who have a history of major depressive disorder,” he says. added.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact yourSuicide and lifesaving crisisin the USA in 988 or theSamaritansin the UK at 116 123.
#Blockbuster #weightloss #drugs #Wegovy #Ozempic #tested #treat #addiction #dementia
Image Source : www.cnbc.com