Novo Nordisk, the company that manufactures Wegovy and Ozempic, funded both trials.
“I suspect there are a lot of people who don’t use these treatments because it requires an injection,” said Dr. Robert Gabbay, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association. “If you could say, ‘Well, it actually doesn’t,’ that’s huge.”
The higher the dose of oral semaglutide, the more side effects seem to follow. In the trial of people who were overweight or obese, 80 percent of those taking oral semaglutide reported gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, nausea, constipation or diarrhea. Almost 1[ads1]3 percent said they experienced “changed skin sensation”, such as tingling. The majority of study participants were white and female, the authors noted, meaning the results may not apply to the broader population of people with obesity.
The second study, in people with diabetes, showed similar side effects: 80 percent of those taking the 50-milligram dose reported side effects, most commonly gastrointestinal problems, which occurred more frequently in people taking the higher doses than in those taking 14 milligrams. Thirteen percent of people who received the 50-milligram dose stopped taking the medication because of the side effects. Injectable semaglutide produces similar side effects; in a previous study, 74.2 percent of participants who received 2.4 milligrams of injectable semaglutide each week (the amount contained in Wegovy) experienced gastrointestinal distress.
Another study presented at the conference and published on Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at another oral compound, orforgliprone, which belongs to the same class of drugs as semaglutide. The study was funded by Eli Lilly. Pfizer has also tested its own pill in that drug class.
Oral semaglutide is not new: there is already a tablet form of the compound on the market, sold under the name Rybelsus. The Food and Drug Administration has only approved that drug for adults with type 2 diabetes, and the tablets come in relatively smaller daily doses, up to 14 milligrams. The tablets work in a similar way to semaglutide injections, which regulate insulin, lower blood sugar and slow stomach emptying, so people feel fuller for longer periods, said Dr. Andrew Kraftson, a clinical associate professor at Michigan Medicine.