New pill more effective than semaglutide in early trial

By Staff 9 Min Read

  • Amycretin, a new weight loss drug developed by Novo Nordisk, has shown promising early results and is potentially more effective than the company’s established treatments, Ozempic and Wegovy.
  • In a phase 1 trial, the drug was found to significantly reduce body weight by 13% over 3 months — a noteworthy improvement compared to the 6% reduction seen with earlier drugs.
  • Despite the need for further research to fully understand amycretin’s long-term safety and effectiveness, these findings sparked an increase in Novo Nordisk’s stock prices as well as a heightened interest in GLP-1 agonist medications.

Early findings from a phase 1 clinical trial announced by the Danish company Novo Nordisk, show that amycretin — an experimental drug they have developed to treat obesity — may be significantly more effective than Ozempic and Wegovy (semaglutide) at improving weight loss.

The company has not yet published the data in a peer-reviewed journal, nor has it specified when it might do so.

This may not come as a surprise, seeing that both Ozempic and Wegovy are primarily prescribed for adults with type 2 diabetes to help them control blood sugar levels.

Of the two, only Wegovy has gained Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for chronic weight management in adults, though all semaglutide drugs appear to be associated with weight loss.

Both medications belong to the class of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, and work by mimicking the action of a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels and appetite.

Early results suggest that amycretin led to a 13% reduction in body weight over a 3-month period.

Previous research demonstrated that semaglutide led to an approximate 6% reduction in body weight over a similar timeframe.

Experts, however, have stressed the need for more comprehensive research to verify the long-term benefits and safety profile of amycretin.

Despite these cautions, Novo Nordisk’s stock value surged by over 8% following the drug’s presentation at an investor meeting on March 7, 2024..

The surging interest in a new class of medications known as GLP-1 agonists has propelled Novo Nordisk to become the most valuable company in Europe, despite facing significant supply shortages due to high demand.

Amycretin differentiates itself from semaglutide medications like Ozempic and Wegovy, and from Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro and Zepbound (tirazepide) by being administered orally as a pill rather than through a weekly injection.

Like its counterparts, amycretin works by emulating the GLP-1 hormone that suppresses appetite. In addition, it also imitates another hormone, amylin.

The limited information available suggests this method could be quite promising, but it is important to note that much more data are required.

This is because amycretin has yet to be evaluated against other medications in a direct comparison trial.

At a recent investor event, a senior development executive from Novo Nordisk highlighted the potential for amycretin to match the effectiveness and safety profile of CagriSema, another GLP-1 agonist drug by the company, targeting amylin.

The company anticipates the results of a study on an injectable version of amycretin to be released next year.

Based on these findings, Novo Nordisk intends to initiate a comprehensive development program.

During a trial of amycretin that involved 16 participants with an average weight of 89 kilograms, those who received a placebo experienced a 1% decrease in body weight over a 12-week period.

Studies indicate that GLP-1 agonist medications can reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases linked to obesity, yet they also increase the chance of experiencing gastrointestinal issues.

Importantly for patients to understand, research shows that once individuals discontinue these drugs, they tend to regain much of the weight they had previously lost.

Three experts, not involved in this research, spoke to Medical News Today about the findings announced by Novo Nordisk.

Dr Simon C. Cork, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Social Care at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom, said that “the results from this study are exciting as they demonstrate what appears to be another effective drug in the rapidly growing weight loss field.”

“However we must await peer-reviewed published clinical trials before we can say for certain how this drug compares with others,” he cautioned.

“What is particularly notable with this drug is that it is taken orally, rather than via injection — as [with] Ozempic and Wegovy — which will undoubtedly be more appealing to patients,” Dr. Cork noted.

“Any drugs which demonstrate effective weight loss are welcomed in what has historically been a very difficult disease to manage. The addition of more drugs on the market will also relieve shortages of GLP-1 agonists, which are relied on by millions of people for the treatment of their type 2 diabetes.”

– Dr Simon C. Cork

Dr. Mir Ali, M.D., bariatric surgeon and medical director of Memorial Care Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, agreed.

“This is exciting news that another medication that appears more effective than the ones currently available is in development,” Dr. Ali said.

However, “a phase 1 trial is the initial trial to show clinical effectiveness and safety in human subjects,” he explained. “Typically, additional research is then conducted to look more closely at long term side effects and effectiveness.”

Speaking of the mechanisms involved, Dr. Ali noted that: “The mechanisms are similar in that GLP-1 and amycretin both target specific receptors; GLP-1 agonists at this time are only available in an injectable form. Having a pill available that is just as effective (or more effective) would certainly make using these medications easier for the patient.”

Dr. Jared Ross, a professor and medical director at the Henry Ford College Paramedic Program and the medical director for Trauma Services at Bothwell Regional Health Center in Missouri also explained that:

“Amycretin is an analog to amylin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that is involved in appetite, weight, and blood sugar levels. This has large-scale implications as it represents the first oral hormonal medication for obesity, unlike GLP-1 analogs like semaglutide and tirzepatide which are both injections […]”

“Amylin analogs stimulate both the GLP-1 receptors in the gut and the amylin receptors in the pancreas,” Dr. Ross added.

“Another amylin analog, an injected medication called cagrilintide, in combination with semaglutide (a GLP-1 analog) has been shown in two small studies to have greater weight loss and better blood sugar control than with semaglutide alone,” he further noted.

However, Dr. Ross highlighted that “the long-term benefits of these medications have yet to be determined as have the adverse effects.”

“One of the major concerns with these hormone medications is that the effects appear to reverse once the medication is stopped, making life-long use necessary,” he emphasized.

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