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Obesity-Fighting Drug May Improve Metabolism

Initial tests of a hormone therapy suggest it reduces LDL cholesterol and improves weight loss in obese patients with type 2 diabetes.

By | September 3, 2013

SXC.HU, BRIAN HOSKINSA hormone-mimicking drug known as LY has shown promise in treating a variety of metabolic problems associated with obesity, researchers reported today (September 3) in Cell Metabolism.

Many patients with type 2 diabetes also face a number of metabolic disorders—including hypertension, elevated LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, reduced HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and sugar intolerance—that are difficult to target and treat with just one drug.

Previous research has indicated that administering a hormone called FGF21 may improve overall metabolism in obese mice. The results of the present LY study—a randomized trial conducted by researchers from the drug’s maker, Eli Lilly and Company—mark the first findings of similar effects in humans.

Over the course of a month, 46 obese patients with type 2 diabetes were injected with a dose of LY, a variant of the human form of FGF21. At the end of the trial, patients administered the drug showed reduced LDL and triglyceride levels, improved HDL levels, and a decrease in artery-clogging lipoproteins. The drug also appeared to cause modest weight loss, but did not have a statistically significant effect on glucose levels.

“We are encouraged by the potential of FGF21 to produce multiple metabolic effects in people with diabetes and are evaluating further concepts for FGF21-based therapies,” lead author David Moller said in a statement. Combination therapy, Moller continued, “often leads to tolerability issues, poor patient compliance, and suboptimal outcomes, all of which provide an incentive to continue the search for new therapeutic approaches.”

Longer and larger studies of LY are needed to evaluate the drug’s safety and determine whether its benefits stand up over time. “There are some interesting properties here that longer studies and bigger numbers will need to confirm,” Ronald Goldberg, a professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who was not involved in the work, told HealthDay. “This is early days for this new medication.”

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