Saxenda, a drug similar to Ozempic, is under public consultation for inclusion in the Brazilian public health system

The drug, approved for obesity treatment in Brazil, contains liraglutide, a substance that also has the approval of Anvisa to act on weight reduction

Saxenda, a drug similar to Ozempic, is approved in Brazil for obesity.

Divulgação / Novo Nordisk

The National Commission for the Incorporation of Technologies in the Unified Health System (Conitec), of the Ministry of Health, opened, on Friday, a public consultation on the incorporation of Saxenda (liraglutide) in the public network. The drug, similar to Ozempic (semaglutide), is approved for obesity treatment in Brazil.

The consultation will be open until May 31, and receives opinions through the commission’s website. The opening of the process is a response to the request for incorporation of the drug in the SUS made by the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, analyzed at the 117th meeting of Conitec, which took place at the end of March.

The consultation is one of the steps of the process that influence the commission’s decision to give a favorable or not recommendation to the ministry on the inclusion. Due to the high cost of Saxenda, the proposal is that the drug be offered free of charge only to patients with a body mass index (BMI) above 35, with pre-diabetes and high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Novo Nordisk cites that the same population cut was made in other public health services, such as the National Health System (NHS), in the United Kingdom. “With this submission, we want to reinforce our purpose in expanding the access of the population, through the public health system, to more treatment options that are effective in combating chronic diseases, such as obesity”, argues Isabella Wanderley, general manager and corporate vice president of pharmaceuticals in Brazil.

In a recent interview with GLOBO, endocrinologist Fabio Trujilho, vice president of the Brazilian Association for the Study of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome (Abeso), defended that new drugs for obesity be eventually incorporated into the public network, stressing that in many cases changes habits are not enough.

  • Accessibility is a bottleneck, because we are talking about a very common clinical situation and drugs that are not cheap, especially for the Brazilian reality. In an ideal scenario, these more modern drugs could have a positive impact on diseases if they were covered by plans and, eventually, if they were incorporated by SUS. Currently we have none in the public network – said the specialist in a report at the end of April.

What is Saxenda, and what is it approved for?

Saxenda is the trade name of the formulation of liraglutide approved for obesity treatment by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) in Brazil. Liraglutide is a drug from the same class as the famous Ozempic (semaglutide), GLP-1 analogues.

GLP-1 is a hormone produced by the body that interacts with various receptors in the body. The drugs simulate this hormone synthetically. Initially they were developed for type 2 diabetes, since GLP-1 stimulates insulin production in the pancreas.

Victoza is the version of liraglutide sold by Novo Nordisk for diabetic patients. More recently, the laboratory developed semaglutide, which has a similar action, but led to superior results, and started selling it to treat diabetes under the name Ozempic.

However, over time it was observed that GLP-1 also acts on the stomach, reducing gastric movements and digestion time, and on the hypothalamus, inducing satiety. Consequently, patients lost weight. With this, it began to be used also to treat obesity, with versions of liraglutide and semaglutide with higher doses receiving Anvisa’s approval for this purpose, Saxenda and Wegovy, respectively.

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