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Accumulating evidence shows that for many patients with type 2 diabetes a bigger dose of the glucagonlike peptide-1 receptor agonist semaglutide is better if the goal is a larger decrease in hemoglobin A1c and weight.

Just weeks after the Food and Drug Administration approved an increased 2.4-mg/week dose of semaglutide (Wegovy) for the indication of weight loss, results from a new randomized study with 961 patients that directly compared the standard 1.0-mg weekly dose for glycemic control with a 2.0-mg weekly dose showed that, dapsone nursing considerations over 40 weeks, the higher dose produced modest incremental improvements in both A1c reduction and weight loss while maintaining safety.

“Once weekly 2.0-mg subcutaneous semaglutide [Ozempic] was superior to 1.0 mg in reducing A1c, with greater weight loss and a similar safety profile,” Juan P. Frias, MD, said at the annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association while presenting results of the SUSTAIN FORTE trial.

Average impact of the increased efficacy was measured. In the study’s “treatment policy estimand” analysis (considered equivalent to an intention-to-treat analysis), the primary endpoint of the cut in average A1c fell by a further 0.18% among patients on the higher dose, compared with the lower-dose arm, a significant difference in patients who entered the study with an average A1c of 8.9%. The average incremental boost for weight loss on the higher dose was about 0.8 kg, a difference that just missed significance (P = .0535).

In the study’s “trial product estimand” analysis (which censors data when patients stop the study drug or add on rescue medications), the effects were slightly more robust. The 2-mg dose produced an average 0.23% incremental decrease in A1c, compared with 1 mg, and an average incremental 0.93-kg weight reduction, both significant, reported Frias, an endocrinologist and medical director of the National Research Institute in Los Angeles.

Frias highlighted that these modest average differences had a clinical impact for some patients. In the treatment product estimand analysis, the percentage of patients achieving an A1c level of less than 7.0% increased from 58% of those who received 1 mg semaglutide to 68% of those treated with 2 mg, and achievement of an A1c of less than 6.5% occurred in 39% of patients on 1 mg and in 52% of those on 2 mg.

A similar pattern existed for weight loss in the treatment product estimand. Weight loss of at least 5% happened in 51% of patients on the 1-mg dose and in 59% of those on the higher dose.

Gradual Up-Titration Aids Tolerance

“The GLP-1 receptor agonists have so many benefits, but we were concerned in the past about pushing the dose. We’ve learned more about how to do that so that patients can better tolerate it,” commented Robert A. Gabbay, MD, PhD, chief science and medicine officer of the ADA in Arlington, Va. “The challenge with the medications from this class has been tolerability.”

Dr Robert A. Gabbay

A key to minimizing adverse effects, especially gastrointestinal effects, from treatment with semaglutide and other GLP-1 receptor agonists has been more gradual up-titration to the target dose, Gabbay noted in an interview, and SUSTAIN FORTE took this approach. All patients started on a 0.25-mg injection of semaglutide once weekly for the first 4 weeks, followed by a 0.5-mg dose once weekly for 4 weeks, and then a 1.0 mg weekly dose. Patients in the arm randomized to receive 2.0 mg had one further dose escalation after receiving the 1.0-mg dose for 4 weeks.

The result was that gastrointestinal adverse effects occurred in 31% of patients maintained for 32 weeks on the 1-mg dose (with 40 total weeks of semaglutide treatment), and in 34% of patients who received the 2-mg dose for 28 weeks (and 40 total weeks of semaglutide treatment). Serious adverse events of all types occurred in 5% of patients in the 1-mg arm and in 4% of those on 2 mg. Total adverse events resulting in treatment discontinuation occurred in about 4.5% of patients in both arms, and discontinuations because of gastrointestinal effects occurred in about 3% of patients in both arms.

Severe hypoglycemia episodes occurred in 1 patient maintained on 1 mg weekly and in 2 patients in the 2-mg arm, while clinically significant episodes of hypoglycemia occurred in 18 patients on the 1-mg dose (4%) and in 12 of the patients on 2 mg (3%).

“It’s reassuring that the higher dose is tolerated,” commented Gabbay.

Several Doses to Choose From

SUSTAIN FORTE ran during 2019-2020 at about 125 centers in 10 countries, with roughly half the sites in the United States. It randomized adults with type 2 diabetes and an A1c of 8.0%-10.0% despite ongoing metformin treatment in all patients. Just over half the patients were also maintained on a sulfonylurea agent at entry. The enrolled patients had been diagnosed with diabetes for an average of about 10 years. They averaged 58 years of age, their body mass index averaged nearly 35 kg/m2, and about 58% were men.

The new evidence in support of a 2.0-mg weekly dose of semaglutide for patients with type 2 diabetes introduces a new wrinkle in a growing menu of dose options for this drug. On June 4, 2021, the FDA approved a weekly 2.4-mg dose of semaglutide for the indication of weight loss regardless of diabetes status in patients with a body mass index of 30 or higher (or in people at 27 or more with at least one weight-related comorbidity).

Gabbay suggested that, in practice, clinicians may focus more on treatment goals for individual patients rather than drug dose, especially with an agent that’s safer with slow dose titration.

In general, “clinicians establish a goal for each patient’s A1c; you use the drug dose that gets you there,” he observed.

SUSTAIN FORTE was sponsored by Novo Nordisk, the company that markets semaglutide. Frias has been a consultant to Novo Nordisk and numerous other companies, he has been a speaker on behalf of Lilly, Merck, and Sanofi, and he has received research funding from Novo Nordisk and numerous other companies. Gabbay had no relevant disclosures.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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