By Dr. Max Gomez

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Food and Drug Administration has just approved the first new weight-loss drug in years, which is good news in the American battle of the bulge.

We’ve heard this before, though, a drug that helps people lose weight, only to be disappointed. However, as CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Wednesday, this could be the real thing.

America has a pandemic even more widespread than COVID-19 — obesity. More than two-thirds of Americans are either obese or overweight, and it’s much more than a cosmetic problem.

“If you look at people with obesity, many of them have complications like diabetes or hypertension, sleep apnea. The vast majority of people have health problems related to their weight, and the thing about Wegovy is that we expect those complications to be treatable with the weight loss,” said Dr. Louis Aronne of Weill-Cornell Medicine.

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And now there’s a new weapon in the fight against obesity and its related diseases. Wegovy has been approved for people who are either obese (body-mass index 30 or more) or overweight (BMI 27 or more) with at least one weight-related medical problem. That translates into being about 50 pounds or more above ideal weight.

Aronne, an obesity researcher, has been studying the long-term of effects of Wegovy. He says this drug is different than previous weight-loss meds.

“The safety is really greater than the drugs that we’ve had before, and finally, with these long-term studies of safety, we see that weight is lost and maintained over a longer period of time,” Aronne said.

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During a 16-month study, patients on Wegovy lost on average 17% of body weight. Side effects included diarrhea and nausea, which usually resolved as the dose was slowly increased.

Patients taken off the drug regained back more than half their weight loss.

Lisa Robillard lost 63 pounds on the drug.

“I wasn’t hungry between meals, which was just unheard of for me,” Robillard said.

Wegovy has been approved for long-term use. It’s a once weekly, injectable version of the diabetes drug Ozempic. Both work by governing the secretion of two hormones that modulate blood sugar levels.

The cost of Wegovy is expected to be about $1,300 a month retail. Insurance coverage remains to be seen, but similar drugs have been covered.

Dr. Max Gomez