In a review and meta-analysis of six small, head-to-head studies of bariatric surgery versus subcutaneous injection with a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist, weight loss was greater after the surgery, but glycemic control was similar after either treatment.
However, researchers have yet to directly compare bariatric surgery with new dual and even triple agonists that are in development.
The review by Shohinee Sarma, MD, MPH, and Patricia Palcu, MD, from the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was published in the November issue of Obesity. Sarma also presented the findings virtually at the Obesity journal symposium at ObesityWeek® 2022.
Eric Ravussin, PhD, outgoing editor-in-chief of Obesity, explained to Medscape Medical News that this is one of five articles the editors chose from about 20 papers submitted for consideration for the symposium, and it was selected because it is a first review and meta-analysis of this direct comparison.
It showed that in “a straight head-to-head comparison, weight loss is larger by about 20 kg (44 lb) with bariatric surgery versus a GLP-1 agonist, but the improvement in glycemia (carbohydrate metabolism) was similar,” said Ravussin, from Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.
Study limitations, which the authors also acknowledge, include that this was a small review of small studies: there were only six studies and 322 patients.
Moreover, the data are from 2007 to 2017, and newer weight-loss drugs are more potent.
Most studies in the review compared bariatric surgery with liraglutide, Ravussin noted, whereas, “we have now better GLP-1 agonists like semaglutide,” as well as drugs that are combinations of a GLP-1 agonist with another agonist or agonists.
“Tirzepatide, for example, which is a combination of a GLP-1 agonist and a [glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) agonist], is showing results that are very close to weight loss with bariatric surgery,” he observed.
There are quite a few other drugs in development, too, he continued, which are going to approach the weight loss obtained with bariatric surgery.
Novo Nordisk is coming out with a combination of an amylin analog (cagrilintide) and a GLP-1 agonist (semaglutide), he noted. “There are others coming in with GLP-1 and glucagon [dual agonists], and there is even a…combo called triple G, which is a glucagon, GLP-1, and GIP [agonist].”
We now need a head-to-head comparison between bariatric surgery versus a combination drug like tirzepatide in a large population, he said.
“This is an exciting period,” Ravussin summarized, “because, 10 years ago, nobody thought that [results with] pharmacotherapy can approach bariatric surgery. Now …….