Revolutionary weight loss jabs that ministers hope will turn the tide on the war on flab waste away patients’ muscles, a pharma boss has warned.
Injections such as Wegovy, which mimic a hormone that tricks the body into being full, have been approved in Britain to help tackle the obesity crisis.
But Pascal Soriot, boss of AstraZeneca, a company best known for its Covid vaccine, warned that they could shrink patients’ muscles.
Doctors have previously warned this effect could leave users metabolically ‘fatter’ because they then have a higher fat-to-muscle percentage, and raise the risk of them piling the pounds back on once they stop taking the medication.
‘Today you lose weight but you lose fat and you lose muscle’, Mr Soriot said, according to The Telegraph.
AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot warned of the downsides of weight-loss jabs made by the company’s rivals as the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker moves to enter the obesity medication market
Mr Soriot said weight loss jabs, such as market leader Wegovy, make patients lose muscle as well as fat and also bemoaned the environmental cost of the single use injections
‘Most people as soon as they stop taking the medicines, they regain fat, but not so much the muscle that they have lost unless, of course, they go to the gym.’
The market for weight-loss drugs is predicted to be worth billions in the coming years as nations grapple with the financial and societal cost of obesity.
Mr Soriot said pharmaceutical companies needed to ‘improve the quality’ of weight loss drugs to both ensure effects didn’t disappear when patients stop taking them and to reduce side effects like muscles loss.
He also bemoaned the environmental cost of the single-use jabs.
‘If you think about a billion people using one plastic pen every week, that’s a lot of plastic. All these plastic pens will become an issue at some point,’ he said.
The Anglo-Swedish company has fallen behind rivals like the Danish Novo Nordisk, which makes Wegovy, and US firm Eli Lilly, the creator of recently approved Mounjaro.
But it hopes an upcoming pill, cheaper than the jabs, will allow it to gain ground in the market.
AstraZeneca has struck a £1.6billion deal with a Chinese biotech company Eccogene for an experimental pill they are developing.
Mr Soriot said the broad aim will be to combine the fat-busting pill with other medications to help treat some of the consequences of obesity, like hypertension and heart disease.
While no price for the pill has been announced, weight-loss jabs can run up between £180 to £300 per dose privately.
However, if prescribed on the NHS, people will only pay a basic prescription charge of £9.65 in England.
Novo Nordisk, the market leader, has its specific weight-loss jab Wegovy, as well as Ozempic, a diabetes drug that uses the same active ingredient and has controversially being prescribed ‘off-label’ for weight loss.
This has led to some diabetes patients who use the drug facing supply shortages.
Novo Nordisk is enjoying a massive boom in profits, revealing last month it was making £32million per day, as countries grappling with the financial cost of flab fighting to get their hands on the jabs.
The UK is one of them. The latest data for England show almost two thirds of adults are too fat, compared to just half in the mid-90s.
Obesity also takes a financial toll, with the resulting health consequences on loss working years, care costs, and price of NHS treatment costing the economy an estimated £100billion per year.
Experts have warned that Wegovy is not a ‘magic pill’. Trials have shown that users can rapidly pile pounds back on once they stop taking it, and it can trigger a side-effects including nausea, constipation and diarrhoea
While hailed as a ‘gamechanger’ in the fight against bulging waistlines, the jabs have downsides.
Patients have to take the jabs for life or see the pounds they lost pile back, doctors have warned.
Secondly, like any medication, they can have side effects that vary in both frequency and severity.
These include nausea, constipation and diarrhoea, fatigue, stomach pain, headaches and dizziness.
Weirder and much rarer side effects, like hair loss, have also been reported.