April 20, 2024

hands of man lifting dumbbells on rack in gym or fitness

Image: Mongkolchon Akesin (Getty Images)

Clinical-stage pharma company Altimmune announced Wednesday that its experimental weight loss drug was found to minimize muscle mass loss in a phase-2 trial.

The finding is welcome as other studies for similar weight loss drugs showed they resulted in a higher rate of lean muscle loss when compared with weight loss accomplished through regular dieting and exercising.

The clinical study of 391 subjects found that patients taking Altimmune’s Pemvidutide loss an average of 16% of weight after 48 weeks. Of that weight, 75% of it derived from a loss of fat, while only 25% came from a loss of lean mass. This ratio is comparable to weight loss achieved with diet and exercise.

For comparison, a clinical trial of the active ingredient in Wegovy and Ozempic looked at a subgroup of 140 patients to see its effects on lean muscle mass. Participants in this group lost an average of about 15 pounds of lean muscle (40%) and 23 pounds of fat (60%) over 28 weeks.

“Preservation of lean mass during weight loss is critical, since excessive loss of lean mass has been associated with negative outcomes, such as sarcopenia and bone fractures, especially in women and the elderly,” said Altimmune’s Chief Medical Officer Scott Harris in a statement.

The race to launch new and improved weight loss drugs

After the launch of the diabetes medication Ozempic in 2017, the demand for weight loss drugs has skyrocketed in recent years.

Fervent demand for Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Ozempic over the last year had the company racing to keep up supply. The rush of sales at the Denmark-based company even buoyed the nation’s GDP in 2023.

Several pharmaceutical companies are now chasing the hype, working to introduce new drugs to get in on the demand.

Viking Therapeutics released on Tuesday results to a small clinical trial that found that participants lost an average of up to 5.3% of their body weight in just 28 days.

Regeneron, Amgen, and Zealand Pharma are also all developing weight loss drugs.

Unsatisfied with its own success, Novo Nordisk is developing an even more powerful weight loss drug.

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