Wednesday, 29 May, 2024
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WHO warning about weight-loss drugs as obesity guidelines amended

The World Health Organisation (WHO), which is carrying out its first review of obesity management guidelines in more than two decades, has warned that the new highly-effective weight loss drugs like Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy are not a “silver bullet” for tackling the rapid rise in global obesity rates.

The agency is first revising guidelines for treating children and adolescents, and will then update recommendations for adults, Francesco Branca, WHO director of nutrition and food safety, told Reuters.

The WHO last issued global guidelines on the topic in 2000, which are used as a blueprint for countries without the resources to draft their own plans.

As part of the work, the WHO has commissioned the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, Italy, to assess the evidence for the use of all drugs for children and adolescents – from older options like GSK’s Xenical to newer, more effective treatments like Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro.

Drugs for obesity are important but must be “part of a comprehensive approach”, Branca said. “This is not a silver bullet.”

The latest WHO data show the percentage of overweight or obese of children and adolescents aged five to 19 has risen to more than 18% in 2016 from 4% in 1975, representing more than 340m people.

Wegovy is approved for weight-loss in the US and Europe, while Mounjaro is expected to receive US approval later this year.

US medical groups are also reviewing their obesity treatment guidelines to consider the best use of Wegovy and similar drugs, with some specialists advocating broad use while others recommend prioritising them for high-risk patients with health conditions, like diabetes or heart disease, that are exacerbated by excess weight.

The American Academy of Paediatrics has recommended using such medicines in children age 12 or older with obesity, even though the long-term impacts have yet to be studied.

The WHO said the first draft of the new management guidelines for children and adolescents are expected by the end of this year.

Branca said the researchers at Mario Negri, as well as other institutions working on the guidelines, had been extensively vetted to avoid conflict of interest concerns.

Novo Nordisk was suspended earlier this year from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry for its marketing practices, such as alleged funding of health professionals and providing training that the association claimed was intended to promote its drug.


Reuters article – Exclusive: Wegovy, other weight loss drugs ‘no silver bullet’, says WHO amid obesity review (Open access)


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