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Beyond Wegovy: Could Novo Nordisk’s new experimental weight loss pill be even better?

Obesity drugs are all the rage at the minute. Ever since the GLP-1 agonist Wegovy took the world by storm last year, there have been multiple buyouts by big players for obesity pipelines and companies are racing to bring even more effective treatments to market. In the most recent development, Wegovy developers Novo Nordisk have returned with another big obesity win as it reported positive early results for its experimental weight loss drug, amycretin.

And, if the results are anything to go by, the new drug could blow Wegovy out of the water. 

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    Amycretin mechanism of action: how exactly does it work?

    Amycretin has a slightly different mechanism of action than Wegovy (semaglutide). Whereas Wegovy is solely a GLP-1 agonist that works by mimicking the GLP-1 hormone produced by the proglucagon gene in the L cells of the small intestine that regulates appetite and feelings of fullness, amycretin is both a GLP-1 and amylin receptor agonist. 

    The amylin hormone is produced principally by beta cells in the pancreas and is released at the same time as insulin, which is also located in the pancreas. Amylin is involved in appetite, weight, and blood sugar levels and, when released into the bloodstream, it activates various homeostatic and reward centers in the brain to suppress appetite and reduce food intake. 

    Therefore, by stimulating both GLP-1 and amylin, amycretin could further reduce hunger and slow stomach emptying – perhaps even more than Wegovy. 

    Better than Wegovy? Amycretin clinical trial produces positive early results

    Amycretin is currently being tested in a phase 1 trial. During its 2024 Capital Markets Day a few weeks ago, Novo Nordisk announced early results from this trial suggesting that amycretin is potentially more effective than Wegovy in treating obesity. 

    The data showed that patients on amycretin lost about 13.1% of their weight after 12 weeks compared to just 1.1% of patients taking placebo. This surpasses the 6% weight loss seen in those who took Wegovy over a similar time frame. 

    Novo Nordisk also said the drug was safe and tolerable. The side effects experienced were in line with its other GLP-1 drugs, including gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. 

    It’s also worth noting that amycretin differentiates itself from Wegovy by being administered orally as a pill – dosed once daily – rather than through a weekly injection. This is likely to be more appealing to patients if it reaches the market. 

    Although more comprehensive research is needed to verify the long-term benefits and safety profile of amycretin, these results are viewed as an exciting development in the weight loss field; one that helped Novo’s shares surge more than 8% to record highs when the results were reported.

    A mid-stage trial for amycretin will begin in the second half of this year, according to Novo Nordisk, with results expected in early 2026. 

    Novo Nordisk’s growing obesity pipeline 

    Novo Nordisk has high expectations for its current obesity pipeline. The company’s key focus areas here are regulating appetite and energy expenditure, weight maintenance, lean body mass preservation, and sustained release.

    During its Capital Markets Day, Novo Nordisk said it has plans to start a phase 1 trial for an amylin molecule in weight management this year, and a tri-agonist is also expected to enter the clinic in the next 12 months that could improve weight loss efficacy further. It is also continuing the development of a therapy that combines an amylin analog cagrilintide and semaglutide for a once-weekly subcutaneous treatment, called CagriSema, which has previously shown 17.1% weight loss in a 20-week phase 1 obesity trial, compared to 9.8% for semaglutide. 

    Novo Nordisk told Reuters that it hopes that CagriSema and amycretin will both have higher efficacy in terms of weight loss than Wegovy. Further studies are needed to determine whether or not this will be the case, but as the company expects amycretin to launch within this decade, it might not be long until we find out whether Novo Nordisk has outdone its current wonder drug.