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New obesity drug sparks hope amid concerns over side effects

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Amidst overwhelming medical facts, many Nigerians cling tenaciously to the belief that being overweight is a sign of the good life. Experts, however, share the opinion that this could be a recipe for disaster.

A pharmacist from Abuja who has been practicing for 19 years, Hassan Ankuma, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, has sounded the alarm on a growing trend in obesity, especially among children.

“I see children who are already obese. We adopt western lifestyles, eating a lot of chocolates and so on. The rich feel that they don’t really need to get involved in a lot of daily physical activity and that’s why you see the number of people going to the gym has become higher, ”Ankuma said.

How a person manages their weight is determined by their body mass index, that is, the calculation of their weight relative to their height that defines their risk to health. Obesity is defined as a BMI greater than 30 kg per square meter. A BMI of 25 to 30 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy.

The United States Food and Drug Administration says obesity or overweight is a serious health problem associated with some of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and is linked to a increased risk of certain types of cancer.

The number of obese and overweight people in Nigeria is already a cause for concern.

A group of 14 medical researchers led by Dr Davies Adeloye of the University of Edinburgh, in an article based on 35 studies published in Annals of Medicine on March 30, 2021, noted that overweight and obesity rates in the country were 25%. and 14.3 percent, respectively.

According to the research titled “Estimating the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Nigeria in 2020: a systematic review and meta-analysis”, the prevalence among women was higher than among men at 25.5% compared to 25%. , 2% for overweight and 19.8 percent. versus 12.9 percent for obesity, respectively.

In another study titled “Childhood Obesity in Nigeria: Causes and Suggestions for Control” published in the Nigerian Journal of Parasitology in April 2018, Professor Evangeline Oparaocha from the Federal University of Technology in Owerri, State of ‘Imo, reported results showing 11 to 18 percent prevalence of childhood obesity in Nigeria.

“Obesity tracking studies indicate that 70 to 80 percent of obese children and adolescents become obese adults. It is reported that from the age of six, about half of obese children grow into obese adults while about one tenth of non-obese children end up becoming obese adults.

“These thus reinforce the need for a rapid intervention in childhood obesity to prevent obese children from becoming obese adults with the resulting health problems,” the study notes.

Losing five to 10 percent of body weight through diet and exercise has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in obese or overweight adult patients.

And perhaps one of the most significant breakthroughs in this regard came on June 4 with the approval of America’s first drug since 2014 to fight overweight and obesity.

The FDA, in a statement, said it has approved Wegovy, an injection of semaglutide for chronic weight management in obese or overweight adults “with at least one weight-related condition (such as high blood pressure). blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol), to be used in addition to a low-calorie diet and increased physical activity.

The drug is indicated for chronic weight management in patients with a BMI of 27 kg per square meter or more who have at least one weight-related disease or in patients with a BMI of 30 kg per square meter or more.

The largest placebo-controlled trial, according to the FDA, included adults without diabetes. The mean age at the start of the trial was 46 years and 74% of patients were women. The average body weight was 105 kg and the average BMI was 38 kg per square meter.

The statement read: “People who received Wegovy lost an average of 12.4% of their initial body weight compared to people who received a placebo. Another trial recruited adults with type 2 diabetes. The average age was 55 and 51% were women. The average body weight was 100 kg and the average BMI was 36 kg per square meter. In this trial, people who received Wegovy lost 6.2% of their initial body weight compared to those who received a placebo.

According to online sources, a placebo is a substance or treatment designed to have no therapeutic value. Common placebos include inert tablets, inert injections, sham surgery and other procedures and they are an important part of clinical studies because they provide researchers with a point of comparison for new therapies, so they can prove that ‘they are safe and effective.

The Deputy Director of the Diabetes, Lipid Disorders and Obesity Division of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, John Sharretts, said, “Today’s approval offers adults obese or overweight sufferers a new beneficial treatment option to incorporate into a weight management program.

“The FDA remains committed to facilitating the development and approval of additional safe and effective therapies for adults suffering from obesity or overweight. ”

After four 68-week trials with over 2,600 patients receiving Wegovy and over 1,500 patients receiving placebo, the most common side effects were nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal (stomach) pain, headaches, fatigue and dyspepsia (indigestion).

The other side effects were dizziness, abdominal distension, belching (belching), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level) in patients with type 2 diabetes, gas (gas build-up), gastroenteritis. enteritis (a bowel infection) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (a type of digestive disorder).

However, the National Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Company of Nigeria, Emeka Duru, expressed concern in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, saying, “You can be sure that the natural way to lose weight, like exercise and diet, is more appropriate and can be recommended.

“Drugs are chemicals and can have side effects and rebound effects. This means that the person can eat more or that the fatty body tissue can grow bigger. Side effects can be seen in the liver and heart. You can’t say that (obesity) doesn’t exist. But I don’t think that’s one of our problems.

Likewise, Ankuma said such drugs would likely be of interest to Nigerians, although he warned that indiscriminate use could be costly. Chronic weight management drugs should be prescribed, he said.

“If he enters Nigeria, I think Nigerians might hang out with him. But my fear is that we will find people who are even underweight saying they want to “keep this or that”. If we are not careful abuse can be involved and when we abuse it the resulting effect will be that we can end up losing people.

“When someone with a normal blood sugar level takes it, the level can get very low and the person can go into shock easily. If it is not detected in time and the person is not resuscitated, they could (die), ”he said.

Ultimately, innovation always calls for celebration. But substitutes for more natural weight loss plans certainly require discretion.

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