Frank Lavernia, MD, Discusses How Obesity Treatment is Changing

Semaglutide (Wegovy) has drawn attention for its indication of weight loss. Recently, however, the focus has shifted to the data surrounding tirzepatide.

Frank Lavernia, MD, Founder and Director of North Broward Diabetes Clinic, gave a talk titled “Where Are We Now? The Integral Role of GLP-1 RAs in the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus” at Pri-Med Midwest 2022.

Semaglutide 2.4 mg (Wegovy) has drawn attention for its indication for weight loss. Recently however, the focus has shifted to the data surrounding tirzepatide. The once-weekly GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) receptor and GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) receptor agonist was just granted Fast Track designation byt the FDA for treating adults with obesity, or overweight with weight-related comorbidities.

"The ADA (American Diabetes Association), the EASD (European Association for the Study of Diabetes), have all come in agreement that obesity is a disease and we have to treat that disease as a comorbidity," Lavernia said in an interview with HCPLive.

"We're looking now at medications, specifically GLP-1 receptor agonists, that will not only lower A1c, but also lower weight," he continued. "So, it's important that we wait to see how quickly (tirzepatide) is approved by the powers to be—the FDA."

Tirzepatide has already been approved by the FDA for type 2 diabetes and it's indication for obesity is anticipated in 2023. However, there's a large gap in uptake of weight loss agents and individuals with obesity.

"Some of it is lack of knowledge," Lavernia explained, "some of them still have difficulties getting prior authorization to use these drugs in people that are obese and who are pre-diabetic, or that don't have diabetes. It's a struggle to get these medications for these folks."

While efforts to increase affordability for GLP-1 receptor agonists have been made, cost-effectiveness and the barriers involving insurance authorization, has led some patients to opt to pay for these weight loss medications on their own. According to Lavernia, this has created a shortage impacting the supply availability for patients with diabetes.

To hear more from Dr. Frank Lavernia, watch the rest of his interview from Pri-Med Midwest 2022.