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Can weight-loss medications destroy society?

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In Short:

The Gila monster, a North American lizard, inspired a new generation of weight-loss drugs that mimic a gut hormone called GLP-1. These drugs, like semaglutide, have shown significant weight loss results in clinical trials and can also benefit heart, kidney, and liver diseases. GLP-1 medications are expected to be in high demand, with potential to treat conditions beyond obesity and diabetes.

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The Slimming Lizard that Inspired a Weight-Loss Drug Frenzy

The Gila monster, A Surprising Source

Meet the **Gila monster**, a unique North American lizard known for its distinctive black and orange scales. Despite its sluggish nature and infrequent feeding habits, this reptile is now the unlikely muse behind a revolutionary wave of weight-loss drugs that have captivated both patients and investors in the pharmaceutical world. Originally designed to treat diabetes, these medications are now showing promising results in preventing diseases affecting the heart, kidneys, liver, and even more.

The Evolution of Weight-Loss Medications

Back in the late 1980s, scientists were exploring the potential of a gut hormone called **glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1)** in diabetes treatment. This hormone, secreted after meals, helps regulate insulin and blood sugar levels. However, the rapid breakdown of GLP-1 in the body posed a challenge for its use as a drug. It wasn’t until 1990 that a breakthrough occurred when John Eng discovered that exendin-4, a hormone in the Gila monster’s venom, resembled human GLP-1. This led to the development of **exenatide**, a synthetic version of the lizard hormone, which marked the beginning of a new era in medication.

The Rise of Weight-Loss Blockbusters

Fast forward to today and medications mimicking GLP-1 have become blockbuster hits. With obesity rates soaring globally, the demand for these drugs is skyrocketing. It’s estimated that by 2030, annual sales of these medications could reach $80 billion, reflecting the urgent need for effective weight-loss solutions in the market.

(The Economist)

Meeting the Market Demand

While only a few GLP-1 drugs are currently approved for weight management, a slew of competitors are entering the arena to offer more convenient, effective, and tolerable options for patients. From monthly doses to oral pills, the future of weight-loss medications is set to revolutionize the industry.

(The Economist)

Exploring New Frontiers Beyond Weight Loss

These innovative medications are not just about shedding pounds; they have the potential to address a myriad of health conditions associated with obesity. From reducing the risk of heart disease to treating liver conditions, GLP-1 drugs are opening doors to new possibilities in the medical field.

The Power of GLP-1 Medications

Recent insights into the brain-immune system interaction of these drugs suggest a broader application beyond metabolic health. As researchers delve deeper into the anti-inflammatory and appetite-suppressing effects of GLP-1 medications, new horizons for treating brain disorders and addictive behaviors may emerge.

Unveiling Hope for a Healthier Future

While the road to developing these groundbreaking drugs is paved with challenges and uncertainties, the potential to transform healthcare for conditions beyond obesity and diabetes is a beacon of hope for a brighter, healthier future.

© 2024, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.

From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com

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