Researchers who recently determined that active ingredient in the diabetes drug Victoza could be used as a new medication for weight loss, are now indicating that the drug may be associated with a risk of gallbladder problems.
The comments came in response to a number of letters to the editor published on October 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine, following publication of a study that examined the potential study on the weight loss side effects of Victoza.
The lead researcher, Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, noted that gallbladder problems from the Victoza could not be completely explained away as a side effect of sudden weight loss.
Victoza (liraglutide) is an injectable diabetes drug introduced by Novo Nordisk in 2010, as a competitor to Byetta. Novo Nordisk recently had a double-dose of the drug approved as a weight loss drug, Saxenda, over objections of some experts who warn that the medication may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, thyroid problems and other side effects.
“As we noted in our article, although the increased weight loss seen with liraglutide as compared to a placebo can partially explain the higher rates of gallbladder-related adverse events, rates were consistently higher with liraglutide than with placebo across all weight-loss categories, which suggests that factors other than weight loss could be involved,” Pi-Sunyer, of Columbia University, said. “To better understand the mechanistic basis of the observed increased incidence of gallbladder events with liraglutide, more data are needed.”
The original study, known as SCALE and sponsored by Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer, found that more than 63% of patients lost 5% of body weight, with a third losing 10%. Nearly 11% loss more than 10% of their body weight. Serious adverse events occurred in 6.2% of the patients given liraglutide, compared to just 5% in the placebo group.
A similar study, also based off of the SCALE findings, was published this summer in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
There are already concerns about the side effects of Victoza and Saxenda as weight-loss drugs. Canadian researchers published a study in March warning that the class of drugs, which also includes Byetta, may increase the risk of colon cancer, particularly among patients who have undergone bariatric weight loss surgery.
The expanded use of the medication for weight-loss also comes amid continuing concerns about the risk of pancreatic cancer, with a number of Victoza lawsuits being filed in courts nationwide on behalf of former users who allege that Novo Nordisk failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community.
Similar allegations have been raised in claims involving other diabetes drugs from the same class of medications, including Byetta lawsuits, Januvia lawsuits and Janumet lawsuits, alleging that the entire incretin mimetic class of drugs increases the risk of pancreatic cancer for diabetics.