Risk of gastrointestinal adverse events associated with glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists for weight los

Categories: Winter 2023
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©Alex Catalona

The risk for prostate cancer and its more aggressive forms have been associated with obesity (i.e., the metabolic syndrome), and generally, men are encouraged to lose weight to reduce this risk factor. Recently, several anti-diabetes drugs have become increasingly popular to achieve weight loss.

A research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that the popular new medicines called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists (e.g., Ozempic, Trulicity, Saxenda, Victoza, Rybelsus, Wegovy, Adlyxin, Byueon Bcise, Tanzeum, Byetta, etc.) used to flush glucose from the blood stream in patients with Type 2 diabetes as second-line therapy in combination with other antidiabetic therapy such as metformin, sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones or insulin when used for weight loss was associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis, slow emptying of the stomach (gastroparesis), and bowel obstruction but not biliary disease. This study compared GLP-1 agonists compared with the use of another unrelated drug also sometimes used for weight loss (buprioion-naltrexone – Wellbutrin).

Given the wide use of these drugs, these adverse events, although rare, must be considered by patients who are contemplating using the drugs for weight loss because the risk-benefit ratio for this group might differ from that of those who use them for diabetes.

Published Online: October 5, 2023. Sodhi, M et al, doi:10.1001/jama.2023.19574

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