THURSDAY, June 11, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Exenatide (Byetta), a drug normally used to treat diabetes, may also help non-diabetic obese people lose weight when combined with diet and exercise, new research has found.
Researchers divided 152 obese men and women (with a body-mass index of greater than 30 and an average weight of 241 pounds) into two groups. About 25 percent of the study participants had impaired glucose tolerance, which can be a precursor to diabetes.
One group received 10 micrograms of exenatide twice a day, while the other received a placebo. Both groups were put on a diet and exercise program for 24 weeks, according to the study authors.
After six months, those taking exenatide lost three times more weight than those taking the placebo, the researchers found. Participants taking exenatide lost an average of 11 pounds, while those in the placebo group lost 3.5 pounds on average.
Some 9.6 percent of exenatide-treated participants lost more than 10 percent of their body weight, according to the study authors.
"Drug therapy is considered important adjunctive treatment to diet and exercise in the successful management of obesity," Dr. Michael Trautmann, a researcher with Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, said in a news release from the Endocrine Society. "To date, however, there are few effective drugs that help obese people lose weight."
The study was to be presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in Washington, D.C.
Previous research has shown that exenatide, an injectable medication marketed by Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly and Company under the brand name Byetta, can help lower blood sugar and helps some diabetics lose weight. The current study was funded by the pharmaceutical companies.
The most common side effects of exenatide were mild or moderate nausea and diarrhea. No participants reported low blood sugar, the researchers note.
Exenatide may promote weight loss by causing people to eat less and increasing feelings of fullness, Trautmann said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more on obesity.