Diabetes Rx May Help Obese Drop Pounds

Obese and overweight individuals who took canagliflozin significantly reduced body weight

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For patients with type 2 diabetes, the medication canagliflozin has been shown to improve blood sugar levels and lower weight. Now, this therapy may also help those without diabetes to lose weight.

In March of 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved canagliflozin (brand name Invokana) as a form of therapy to be used in combination with diet and exercise to lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes.

While the medication has proven to be effective in encouraging weight loss in patients with diabetes, a new study found that it may also lower weight for those who do not have diabetes but are overweight and obese.

"Lose weight to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels."

Harold Bays, MD, of Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center in Kentucky, and his colleages analyzed results of 376 individuals without diabetes.

Subjects received either 50 mg, 100 mg or 300 mg of canagliflozin or a placebo once daily for 12 weeks.

Previous research had shown that diabetes patients who were taking daily 100 mg or 300 mg doses of canagliflozin shed about 4 percent of their body weight on average after a year.

Dr. Bays and his team were investigating if the medication would have a similar weight-loss effect on those without diabetes.

After three months, these researchers observed that 98 subjects taking 50 mg canagliflozin had an average body weight reduction of 2.2 percent. Those taking 100 mg of the medication dropped 2.9 percent of body weight, and patients receiving 300 mg lost about 2.7 percent weight.

The participants taking a placebo shed about 1.3 percent body weight on average.

Although the authors noted that women taking canagliflozin had higher rates of genital mycotic (fungal) infections, these were generally mild.

The FDA states that the most common side effects of canagliflozin are vaginal yeast infection (vulvovaginal candidiasis) and urinary tract infection. Because the medication is associated with a diuretic effect (increasing the discharge of urine), it can cause a reduction in intravascular volume (the volume of blood in a person's circulatory system). This can lead to a sudden fall in blood pressure when standing up, and it may result in symptoms such as dizziness or fainting.

Most people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight, according to National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and people who are overweight are at much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than normal weight individuals. Being overweight puts extra pressure on the body's ability to properly control blood sugar.

Dr. Hays told dailyRx News, “While canagliflozin is currently indicated for treatment of diabetes mellitus, future research might include evaluation of canagliflozin in individuals at risk for diabetes mellitus, such as those with prediabetes. Other areas of interest would be more data on canagliflozin's safety and efficacy when combined with other anti-diabetes mellitus agents most associated with decreased body weight, as well as more combination data with anti-hypertensive and anti-obesity agents."

While canagliflozin is currently FDA-approved as a medication to improve blood sugar control in patients with type 2 diabetes, it is not approved as a weight-loss therapy for individuals withhout diabetes.

These researchers stressed that the short duration of the study (12 weeks) was a limitation, and a longer study is needed to follow up on these initial results.

This study was published in the Obesity Society journal Obesity. The research was supported by Janssen Research & Development.

Review Date: 
December 15, 2013
Last Updated:
January 2, 2014