Semaglutide: what it is and how it works?

Semaglutide: what it is and how it works?

Publication date: 05-05-2023

Updated on: 14-07-2023

Topic: Dermatology

Estimated reading time: 1 min

It is the drug of the moment. On Instagram and Tik Tok, in recent weeks, videos and posts from VIPs and influencers, especially Americans, have been multiplying, speaking enthusiastically about Semaglutide, a molecule created to treat diabetes that has now come into the limelight because it promises to make weight loss quick and effortless. But is this really the case? What is it all about? 

We asked Dr. Roberto Leonardi, medical dietician referent of the Center for Eating Disorders and the area of Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition at Policlinico San Pietro, where it is possible to be followed for problems of overweight and obesity with personalized paths (nutritional, pharmacological, rehabilitative) by a highly qualified multidisciplinary team composed of dietician, nutritionist, psychologist and physiotherapist.

What Semaglutide is and what it is used for?

Semaglutide is a molecule that belongs to the category of 'GLP-1 (glucagon like peptide-1) receptor agonists,' which has been in use in the treatment of type 2 diabetes for some years. 

"The drug acts as an appetite and hunger regulator: 

  • at the intestinal level, leading to a slowing of the digestive process resulting in a greater sense of satiety, even when small volumes of food are taken;
  • at the central level on certain encephalic nuclei, increasing the sensations of fullness and satiety and simultaneously decreasing those of hunger and desire for food consumption. 

From the clinical studies carried out so far, in addition to the improvement in glycemic compensation for which it is used, very encouraging results have emerged in terms of weight loss: up to 15% weight loss when combined with proper nutritional treatment and physical activity," Dr. Leonardi notes.

Who can take semaglutide?

Already approved for years by AIFA (Italian Drug Agency) for the treatment of diabetes, Semaglutide can be prescribed by a specialist doctor to patients with type 2 diabetes through the drawing up of a treatment plan. In this case, there is reimbursement by the National Health Service. 

"The drug is not on the market with an indication for the treatment of overweight and obesity, but on the back of promising clinical trial results, off-label use of this molecule for the treatment of overweight and obesity has also become widespread in recent times," Dr. Leonardi continues.

Unlike for the treatment of diabetes, when used for the treatment of obesity, there is no reimbursement for the drug from the National Health Service. 

"This is certainly an interesting perspective, an additional weapon to combat what is becoming a real pandemic, referred to by experts as 'Globesity'. It is important to emphasize, however, that the drug, especially when used 'off label,' should be prescribed only after a referral from a specialist physician, and that the greatest effectiveness is achieved when combined with a healthy diet and regular sports activity," Dr. Leonardi concludes. 

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