Conventional dieting, weight-loss programmes on way out as new generation of drugs become more accessible

Experts are predicting conventional dieting and weight-loss programmes could be on their way out, as a new generation of drugs become more accessible.

It follows the Medsafe approval of a well-known type 2 diabetes medication in March.

But there are still a lot of discussions to take place before these new drugs can be used on our costly obesity epidemic.

Jenny Craig became a household name around the world but after 40 years of promoting diet culture, the nutrition company has been forced to slim down its operations. 

The business was placed into voluntary administration last month, with the closure of its New Zealand and Australian stores imminent.

Internationally, it's been touted as a turning point for the industry, brought on by popular new prescription diabetes drugs that can also be used to help people lose weight.

"The GLP-1 receptor agonists and their related molecules are going to create quite a paradigm shift in how we are able to treat obesity and related health conditions," endocrinologist Dr Rinki Murphy told Newshub. 

"One of the things it does is create that feeling of fullness and create that ability to regulate blood sugars." 

But a global surge in demand has already resulted in a shortage of the drugs, one of which is already affecting diabetics here.

"It's a real concern, we are already experiencing those supply chain issues," Dr Murphy said. 

In addition to that, MedSafe has approved some use of the drug Ozempic, for type 2 diabetics.

Murphy hopes one day New Zealand will be able to access a higher dosage for weight loss as well.

"It's an exciting medication because unlike other weight-loss medications that have long-term serious side effects, these GLP-1 receptor agonists don't seem to have those and at lower doses used to treat T2D they've been shown to be beneficial for strokes and heart disease and kidney failure," Dr Murphy said. 

In New Zealand, we do already have an unfunded weight loss drug called Saxenda but the similar higher dosage drug Wegovy, which is not yet registered in New Zealand, is almost twice as effective.

It's said to be used by several Hollywood A-listers but should it come here it could raise some taxpayer questions

"In time, we will see some real debate around whether or not we should be funding weight loss indicated doses of the same molecule," Dr Murphy said.

Dr Murphy said while it may help to manage our obesity problem in years to come, she warns it's expensive and would also require responsible regulation.