A study conducted by the researchers of University College London (UCL) has found that 35% of people who took a new drug for treating obesity lost more than 20% of their total body weight.

The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal for Medicine, is being hailed as a “game-changer” for improving the health of obese people.

The drug, called semaglutide (brand names Ozempic, Rybelsus) works by hijacking the body’s appetite-regulating system in the brain leading to reduced hunger and calorie intake, according to Medical Xpress.

Semaglutide is a diabetes medication advised for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It increases insulin secretion, thereby increasing sugar metabolism. The drug is typically prescribed in much lower doses of 1mg.

Lead author Prof. Rachel Batterham said, “The findings of this study represent a major breakthrough for improving the health of people with obesity. Three quarters (75%) of people who received semaglutide 2.4mg lost more than 10% of their body weight and more than one-third lost more than 20%.”

“No other drug has come close to producing this level of weight loss—this really is a game-changer,” she added. “For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight-loss surgery.”

Prof. Batterham explained, “The impact of obesity on health has been brought into sharp focus by COVID-19 where obesity markedly increases the risk of dying from the virus, as well as increasing the risk of many life-limiting serious diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and certain types of cancers. This drug could have major implications for UK health policy for years to come.”

The researchers found that participants who received the drug in the trial lost 15.3 kg (33.7 lbs.), which was accompanied by reductions in risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.

Chief Investigator Prof. John Wilding of the University of Liverpool said, “This is a significant advance in the treatment of obesity. Semaglutide is already approved and used clinically at a lower dose for treatment of diabetes, so as doctors we are already familiar with its use.”

“For me, this is particularly exciting as I was involved in very early studies of GLP1 (when I worked at the Hammersmith Hospital in the 1990s we were the first to show in laboratory studies that GLP1 affected appetite), so it is good to see this translated into an effective treatment for people with obesity,” he added. The article was originally published on Medical Xpress.