Liraglutide: A New Option for the Treatment of Obesity

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Obesity continues to pose a major public health risk to the United States and across the world, with an estimated one-third of adult Americans being defined as obese. Obesity treatment guidelines recommend the use of pharmacologic therapy in adults who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m(2) or higher or in patients with a BMI of 27 kg/m(2) or higher who have at least one weight-related comorbid condition (e.g., hypertension, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus). Liraglutide is a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist that has been successfully used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes for several years. Weight loss has been well described as an additional benefit with liraglutide therapy, which prompted the manufacturer to evaluate and develop a higher dose formulation specifically for the treatment of obesity. Liraglutide 3 mg/day was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this indication in December 2014. We performed a search of the Medline database to identify relevant literature focused on liraglutide's role specifically in treating obesity. Five clinical trials with this primary end point were identified. Data demonstrated that liraglutide can successfully achieve weight-loss benchmarks of 5% or more and 10% or more loss from baseline. The most common adverse effects were gastrointestinal and mild to moderate in intensity. The cost of therapy is high, averaging over $1000/month for out-of-pocket expenses if insurance coverage is not available. Liraglutide is also available for delivery only by subcutaneous injection, which may represent a barrier for patients. Liraglutide 3 mg/day represents another pharmacologic option for the treatment of obesity.

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