How Pfizer’s Diet Pill Compares to Ozempic’s Injections

How Pfizer's Diet Pill Compares to Ozempic's Injections

Weight loss with Ozempic or Wegovy requires patients to inject themselves with the drug, and drawbacks have been reported for some people. But a new oral drug from Pfizer promises to deliver similar results, minus the needle.

While some headlines have already heralded it as potentially the next Ozempic in pill form and easier to use than similar treatments, experts say it’s still early in the process to say for sure.

It needs to be studied on a larger scale and for a longer duration before we can truly understand its true impact, Dr. Christopher McGowan, an obesity medicine specialist in Cary, North Carolina, told TODAY.com. McGowan was not involved in the Pfizer study.

The important thing is that patients can take it orally rather than an injection, patients would always prefer to take something orally in general.

Patients also need more options when it comes to diet drugs, so a new drug would be welcome, adds Dr. William Yancy, medical director of Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center, in Durham, North Carolina. he was also not involved in the study.

No. 1, could bring down prices, which are still very high, Yancy says. No. 2, the pill form may be preferable for some patients. No. 3, the side effects can be different.

But it could be years before the new drug gets approval and becomes commercially available, McGowan notes.

What is Pfizer diet drug?

Known as danuglipron, the diabetes and obesity treatment is in a class of drugs called GLP-1 agonists and mimics a hormone the body releases when a person eats food. People have reduced appetite, and when they eat, they feel full sooner, TODAY.com previously reported. Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, is also in this drug class.

Danuglipron comes in pill form. Unlike oral semaglutide, which is currently available as a treatment for type 2 diabetes Rybelsus, does not require fasting before or after taking the pill, researchers reported in the results of the Pfizer-sponsored danuglipron test study.

When people took danuglipron twice a day for four months, their body weight was statistically significantly reduced compared with a placebo, according to a phase 2 randomized clinical trial involving 411 adults with type 2 diabetes. findings were published on JAMA Network in May 2023.

Study participants who took the highest dose of danuglipron 120 milligrams twice a day lost about 10 pounds over 16 weeks, the researchers reported. The paper didn’t directly compare these results to Ozempic or Wegovy, but a Phase 3 study showed patients who received a once-weekly 1-milligram injection of semaglutide lost about 10 pounds in 30 weeks.

Does Pfizer have a better diet pill than Ozempic?

When it comes to effectiveness, it’s a bit early to tell, McGowan notes.

Danuglipron and semaglutide are different molecules, so dosages cannot be directly compared, but in general, the oral dose required to achieve the same results as an injectable version is significantly higher because the digestive tract is a more challenging route for absorption McGowan says.

The studies were different studies with different populations, so they can’t be compared directly, McGowan says.

Unless you do a direct head-to-head comparison, you can’t really draw any firm conclusions, he adds.

But what we can say is that the results are on the same level as what we have seen with Ozempic.

What are the side effects?

The most common side effects of danuglipron were nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, according to the study.

Most concerning to me is that there was a drug discontinuation rate of up to 34 percent at the highest doses and that would not be acceptable for widespread use, McGowan says.

Treatment-emergent adverse events were the most common reason for discontinuation, researchers reported in the Pfizer study. They noted that the study involved rapid increases in the drug dose, which likely impacted optimal tolerability assessments, leading to higher discontinuation rates.

It’s possible that more gradual dosing could reduce the severity of side effects, McGowan adds.

The most commonly reported adverse events were gastrointestinal in nature, according to the Pfizer study. They were mild, more common with higher doses, and known to be associated with GLP-1 agonists, Pfizer said in a statement to TODAY.com.

By comparison, about 7 percent of patients treated with Wegovy in clinical trials permanently stopped taking the drug due to adverse reactions, according to Novo Nordisk, which makes Wegovy, the approved weight-loss version of Ozempic.

The most common adverse reactions that led patients to discontinue Wegovy were nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, the company reported. In all, approximately 4% of patients discontinued the drug due to a gastrointestinal adverse reaction.

Danuglipron approval

Pfizer’s product was still years away, McGowan says.

Pfizer is also testing another oral GLP-1 drug called lotiglipron, which would be taken once a day. It is currently in Phase 2 trials, according to the company’s drug pipeline information.

Pfizer is expected to advance just one of the two drugs in a late-stage study, Barrons and Reuters reported.

Pfizer has not confirmed those reports to TODAY.com.

What are the pros and cons of the pill form?

Yates says this will be helpful for people who want to avoid injections, although most of his patients find once-a-week injections easy to do and not bothersome.

Another plus is that there’s no need for refrigeration with the pill version, adds McGowan.

One potential downside is that people may forget to take a daily medication. How consistently can patients take it over time? It’s not easy to remember to take a drug twice a day, every day, potentially forever, he notes.

Are there other pill forms of GLP-1 for weight loss?

In May 2023, Novo Nordisk announced that obese or overweight adults who took a daily dose of 50 milligrams of oral semaglutide for 68 weeks lost 15 percent of their body weight. The findings are based on results from a Phase 3 study involving 667 people.

The weight loss was comparable to that achieved with a 2.4-milligram dose of semaglutide injected once a week in the form of Wegovy over the same time frame, the company said in a statement.

Oral semaglutide appears to be safe and well tolerated, with the most common side effects described as mild to moderate gastrointestinal adverse events, the statement added.

Patients should take the drug on an empty stomach first thing in the morning with a drink of water and then wait 30 minutes before they can eat or drink, similar to the directions for Rybelsus, a spokeswoman for Rybelsus told TODAY.com. Novo Nordisk. Pfizer’s danuglipron does not have these restrictions, the JAMA Network study authors noted.

In its statement, Novo Nordisk says it expects to apply for regulatory approval in the United States this year.

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Ozempic: Study finds it could work in pill form

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The drug Ozempic may become available in pill form. FreshSplash/Getty images
  • Novo Nordisk is testing whether an Ozempic pill is as effective as the popular injectable form of the drug.
  • Early research has shown promising results.
  • Semaglutide is a drug developed to treat type 2 diabetes by regulating insulin by mimicking a hormone in the body called GLP-1.

The weight loss journey for many people is a struggle, but with the recent surge and use of drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, people are finding it easier to lose the extra weight.

Semaglutide, the drug in Ozempic and Wegovy, is currently administered into the body through injections. However, pharmaceutical companies are experimenting with an oral pill form of this weight loss drug with promising results.

In a recent press release, Novo Nordisk, the company that makes Ozempic and Wegovy, announced promising results in a Phase 3a study evaluating the efficacy and safety of this weight-management drug.

The study involved 667 adults with obesity or overweight with at least one comorbidity. It found that the 50 mg oral form of semaglutide resulted in a 15.1% weight loss compared to 2.4% in the placebo group.

Martin Holst Lange, executive vice president of development at Novo Nordisk, said he was pleased with the results, and the choice between a daily tablet or a weekly injection for obesity has the potential to give patients and healthcare professionals the opportunity to choose what best suits the individual’s treatment preferences, in a corporate statement.

Dr. Louis J. Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Management Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, finds the oral option compelling and creates a greater outreach.

Many people prefer oral dosing. Once-a-week injections, however, are very simple to administer and in some ways more cost-effective. Oral dosing increases the range of people who can be treated with these drugs, he tells Healthline.

According to Harvard University, approximately 69% of US adults are considered overweight or obese. THE Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as of 2020, the prevalence of severe obesity has increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.

Obesity and being overweight increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes and can increase your risk of developing some types of cancer.

Semaglutide is a drug developed to treat type 2 diabetes by regulating insulin by mimicking a hormone in the body called GLP-1.

GLP-1 can also tell the brain that the stomach is full, even if it isn’t, resulting in decreased appetite, less desire to eat, and eventual weight loss.

Ozempic is currently approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but Wegovy, which uses the same drug semaglutide, has been approved for weight loss.

In their current form, these drugs are currently being administered by injection into the waist, thigh, or even the upper arm once a week. Sometimes this can not only be uncomfortable for patients, but also create more hesitation in taking medications.

An oral form of semaglutide is already available under a different brand name, Rysbelsus. However, at the prescribed dose, it has not shown efficacy in regards to weight loss. This drug is prescribed at 14mg at most and at that dose it does not help in weight loss.

Novo Nordisk’s recent oral drug study showed weight loss results at 50mg.

It may be likely that higher doses taken by mouth than injected subcutaneously could result in more gastrointestinal distress for some patients, but that remains to be seen once the drug makes its way to market, said Dr. Sahar Takkouche, chief expert in Bariatric and Obesity Medicine and Assistant Professor in the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee.

Some patients may be more tolerant than others when it comes to side effects as there is variation with any drug.

Despite the newfound popularity of these drugs, they come with side effects, both in injectable and oral forms. The study showed that the most common side effect associated with these drugs is gastrointestinal upset. However, gastrointestinal problems are also associated with injection forms including nausea, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, belching, and generalized abdominal pain.

With semaglutide causing gastrointestinal distress, Aronne recommends taking them on an empty stomach at least half an hour away from food and other medications, and you can’t take them with all other medications.

Besides the side effects, these drugs can also be expensive. Some insurance companies cover these drugs for diabetes treatment, but many don’t cover them for weight loss that costs people about $1,000 out of pocket a month for treatment.

Many insurance companies do not recognize obesity as a medical condition and view the treatment of this disease as purely cosmetic, says Takkouche.

He continues, this paradigm is invalid and puts our patients and the US population at risk of further decline while increasing the cost of health care for all.

Other companies are quickly racing to create oral drugs for diabetes and weight loss as well.

Pfizer is currently developing danuglipron, another oral drug for diabetes and weight loss. The company recently published a study in the journal JAMA network open as for a tablet twice a day which is said to be taken with food, which is different from oral forms of semaglutide.

Similarly, for semaglutide, this drug mimics GLP-1 to not only help regulate insulin, but also tell the brain that the stomach is full and help regulate weight loss.

While these drugs are compelling, not all of them are the perfect fit for them.

The best candidates for this drug are patients with a BMI greater than 30 or a BMI greater than 27 plus an obesity-related comorbidity such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obstructive sleep apnea or fatty liver, Takkouche explained.

Drug therapy is a compelling way for many to lose weight if diet and exercise are not suitable options for an individual and with different companies working to approve oral medications, the number of people eligible for these drugs could increase.

Dr. Rajiv Bahl, MBA, MS, is an emergency medicine physician, board member of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians, and health writer. You can find it at RajivBahlMD.

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