Anti-obesity drug to make WHO vital list


An anti-obesity drug could soon be part of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) essential medicines List.

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An anti-obesity drug could soon be part of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) essential medicines List. If approved, it will be the first time a weight loss drug will be included as part of the list of drugs that only meet priority healthcare needs.

Four American scientists have proposed to have liraglutide, a major ingredient for an obesity drug whose market name is Saxenda, included in the list.

The scientists are from Yale University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the University of California, all in the US. In a joint statement seen by Nation, the scientists lamented the lack of medication for obesity or weight loss in the Essential Medicines List (EML) despite the condition a global burden. Advisors from the WHO will meet this month to consider the scientists’ proposal.

In Kenya, a study published in The Lancet, a medical journal, last year showed the country is on a “obesity transition”.

Between 2009 and 2019, high body mass index (BMI), which is one of the ways of telling if someone is obese, was ranked seventh as the top 10 factors leading to disability-adjusted life years for all ages.

“Over the next 25 years, elimination of high BMI is estimated to postpone 342,336 overall deaths and save 5·7 million Health Adjusted Life Years (Halys) for the Kenya 2019 population. Over their lifetime, an estimated 83·5 million Halys could be gained,” said the study.

The study revealed that a high body mass index will make more Kenyans suffer from heart and musculoskeletal diseases such as osteoarthritis, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The latest global Obesity Atlas released early last month also showed that Kenya ranks poorly in terms of handling obesity and overweight related illnesses.

The four American scientists in their statement reiterate the fact that obesity is a risk factor for many non-communicable diseases, including type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease (as mentioned in the study).

Already, the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency approved liraglutide to be used in the treatment of long-term chronic weight management.