Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Next month, WHO advisers will consider whether to add liraglutide, an active ingredient in some diabetes and obesity drugs, to the list of essential medicines.
WHO says the list, which is updated every two years, includes medicines that “meet the priority health needs of the population”.
The Expert Panel on Selection and Use of Essential Medicines is scheduled to meet April 24-28 to discuss reviews and updates on dozens of medicines.
The request to include GLP-1 agonists such as liraglutide came from four researchers at US institutions, including Yale University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
These drugs mimic the effects of the hormone GLP-1, which controls appetite and stimulates insulin secretion. It helps lower blood sugar and slows the passage of food through the intestines.
Liraglutide was developed to treat diabetes, but was approved in the US as a weight loss treatment in 2014.
Semaglutide has been approved as a treatment for diabetes since 2017 and for obesity in 2021.
The use of the latter is known through celebrity advertisements and social media.
It is sold under the names Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss.
Studies suggest that semaglutide may help people lose an average of 10% to 15% of their starting weight more than other drugs.
But due to high demand, some copies of the drug have been in short supply in the US since the middle of last year.
The U.S. patent for liraglutide expires this year, and drugmaker Novo Nordisk says generic versions could be available in June 2024.
The agency was not involved in submitting the application to the World Health Organization, but “we welcome the World Health Organization’s review and look forward to the report and outcome,” he explained in a statement.
“Currently, there are no drugs on the Essential Medicines List that target weight loss,” the researchers wrote in their request to the World Health Organization.
The researchers continued: “The list currently includes mineral supplements for nutritional deficiencies, however, they are recommended for people living in countries where overweight and obesity kill more people than underweight.”
WHO consultants will make recommendations on which drugs should be included in this year’s list, which is expected to be submitted in September.
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