Semaglutide, the drug behind Wegovy and Ozempic, which has rapidly gained popularity as an injected treatment for diabetes and obesity, shows promise as a pill.
The Associated Press reports that two studies showed semaglutide pills reduced weight and improved blood sugar about as well as the shots. The drug was shown to be effective in populations of people with diabetes as well as people with obesity but without diabetes. The studies were presented during the American Diabetes Association’s annual conference in San Diego.
Though an injection is extremely off-putting and anxiety-inducing to some, a daily pill is not necessarily better than a weekly prick. Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine expert at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the AP that she didn’t encounter “significant hesitancy” around injections, and added that some people like administering medication just once a week.
Even without the needles, there are still reasons to be cautious, as the studies noted that 80% of people who took oral semaglutide had some kind of gastrointestinal distress, which is also common in people who take the injectable version. More alarming, at higher doses, oral semaglutide users had an increased rate of benign tumors compared to participants on the placebo.
Multiple companies, including Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Co., and Pfizer, are working on pill versions of the popular injectable drugs for both diabetes and obesity treatment. Some of them are already extremely popular. Rybelsus—Novo Nordisk’s oral semaglutide approved for use in diabetes treatment—doubled in annual sales in 2022.