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Liraglutide helps control excessive hunger but has no impact on weight

Written by Marcin Miszkowski

What’s the news?

A recent Phase 3 trial has shown that liraglutide can help ease excessive hunger alongside a diet and exercise program, but has no impact on weight gain. Liraglutide is a weight management medication that acts by changing the activity of nerve cells associated with eating behaviours.

What’s the science?

Liraglutide has a well documented history of regulating appetite in adults, and so a Phase 3 trial was conducted on children (age 6-11) and adolescents (age 12-17) with PWS. The study was conducted across multiple sites in numerous countries. Participants were administered either a placebo or liraglutide injection for a period of 16 weeks. Those who received liraglutide continued to receive a dose for 36 further weeks followed by 2 weeks of observations and follow ups. The main goal for the study was to see a change in BMI (body mass index) compared to the national average for age and gender. From the start of the study, to week 16 and onto week 52, there were no significant changes in BMI for either children or adolescents. However, hyperphagia was greatly reduced by week 52 in the adolescent liraglutide group. There was also no impact on fasting lipids, blood sugars or any vital signs during the duration of this trial.

Impacts of Liraglutide

Side effects were recorded during the trial, with the most common complaints being diarrhoea and abdominal pain. One serious side effect of gallstones was recorded by just one participant of the trial. Three cases of hypoglycemia were recorded during the trial but showed to have no cognitive impact on the participant. There were no reports of suicidal thoughts, increased depression or changes to blood work that may impact puberty

What does this mean for people with PWS?

This is a potentially exciting development and path of future study. Although no impact on BMI, when administered alongside a diet and exercise plan, liraglutide has the potential to control excessive hunger, which is a significant risk factor for causing obesity in people with PWS. Seeing a reduction in hyperphagia could reduce or eventually remove this risk factor in the future.