Weight loss jabs shrink muscles, warns AstraZeneca boss as Covid jab maker eyes offering rival slimming pill
Revolutionary weight loss incentives which ministers hope will turn the tide on the war against flapping waste from patients’ muscles, a pharmaceuticals boss has warned.
Injections such as Wegovy, which mimic a hormone that tricks the body into filling up, have been approved in Britain to help tackle the obesity crisis.
But Pascal Soriot, boss of AstraZeneca, a company best known for its Covid vaccine, warned that they could shrink patients’ muscles.
Doctors have previously warned that this effect can make users metabolically ‘fatter’ because they then have a higher fat-to-muscle percentage, increasing the risk of regaining the pounds once they stop taking the medication.
‘Today you lose weight, but you lose fat and you lose muscle,’ said Mr Soriot The Telegraph.
AstraZeneca boss Pascal Soriot has warned of the downsides of weight-loss moves being made by the company’s rivals as the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker moves into the obesity drug market.
Mr Soriot said weight loss injections, such as market leader Wegovy, made patients lose muscle as well as fat and also bemoaned the environmental cost of the one-off injections.
“Most people once they stop taking the medicine, they get fat back, but not so much the muscle they lost, unless of course they go to the gym.”
The market for weight loss drugs is predicted to be worth billions in the coming years as nations grapple with the financial and social costs of obesity.
Mr Soriot said pharmaceutical companies needed to “improve the quality” of weight loss drugs to ensure effects did not disappear when patients stopped taking them and to reduce side effects such as muscle loss.
He also complained about the environmental cost of the one-off jabs.
‘If you think about a billion people using one plastic pen every week, that’s a lot of plastic. All these plastic pens will become a problem at some point,” he said.
The Anglo-Swedish company has fallen behind rivals such as Denmark’s Novo Nordisk, which makes Wegovy, and US firm Eli Lilly, the creator of recently approved Mounjaro.
But it hopes an upcoming pill, cheaper than the sting, will allow it to gain ground in the market.
AstraZeneca has struck a £1.6 billion deal with Chinese biotech company Eccogene for an experimental pill it is developing.
Mr Soriot said the broad aim would be to combine the fat-busting pill with other medications to help treat some of the effects of obesity, such as hypertension and heart disease.
Although no price for the pill has been announced, weight loss shots can fetch between £180 and £300 per dose privately.
However, if prescribed on the NHS, people will only pay a basic prescription cost of £9.65 in England.
Novo Nordisk, the market leader, has its specific weight loss pill Wegovy, as well as Ozempic, a diabetes drug that uses the same active ingredient and is controversially prescribed ‘off-label’ for weight loss.
This has led to some diabetes patients using the drug facing shortages.
Novo Nordisk is enjoying a massive surge in profits, revealing last month it was making £32m a day, as countries grapple with the financial cost of blitzkriegs to get their hands on it.
The UK is one of them. The latest data for England shows almost two-thirds of adults are overweight, up from just half in the mid-90s.
Obesity also takes a financial toll, with the resulting health consequences on lost working years, care costs and price of NHS treatment costing the economy an estimated £100 billion a year.
Experts have warned that Wegovy is not a ‘magic pill’. Trials have shown that users can quickly pile on the pounds once they stop taking it, and it can cause side effects including nausea, constipation and diarrhea
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Although considered a game changer in the fight against bulging midsections, the stitches have drawbacks.
Doctors have warned that patients must take the stitches for life or watch the pounds they’ve lost pile on.
Second, like any medication, they can have side effects that vary in both frequency and severity.
These include nausea, constipation and diarrhoea, fatigue, stomach pain, headaches and dizziness.
Stranger and much rarer side effects, such as hair loss, have also been reported.