Byetta works by helping to reduce blood sugar levels after meals, Kelly explained. It is thought to help reduce weight, he said, by acting on receptors in the brain that control appetite and by increasing feelings of fullness after eating.
All the teens in the study got instructions for lifestyle changes aimed at losing weight. Half of the teens got the injected drug twice a day, before breakfast and before dinner. The others were injected with what looked like an identical drug, but was in fact a placebo.
In all, 22 of the 26 children initially enrolled finished the first three months of the study. At that time, those on the drug lost about seven more pounds on average than those on placebo.
After the three months, those on the placebo had the option of taking Byetta. At the end of six months, those on the drug for the entire study had lost an average of 4 percent more, in terms of their BMI, compared to the others.
One expert agreed that the added weight loss was modest.
"As has been shown in adults, exenatide does appear to produce some weight loss," said Dr. Jeffrey Schwimmer, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.
Schwimmer, who also wrote an editorial accompanying the study, said that "there is likely to be variability in who does and doesn't respond [to Byetta]." One challenge for researchers, as more drugs become available, he said, is to predict which teens will best respond to these medicines.
According to the study, the most common side effects were gastrointestinal, such as nausea and vomiting, but these effects resolved over time.
The study ended at six months, so Kelly doesn't know if the teens kept off the weight long-term.
While the weight loss differences were modest, Kelly said those on the drug also showed a slight, healthy decrease in systolic blood pressure (the
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