As weight loss drugs' popularity grows, teens turn to Wegovy for help

When Rasheeda Bush and her 15-year-old son wanted to turn their health around, they both turned to a weight loss drug for help.

Both Bush and her son Brian have lost weight using Wegovy, a medication that is FDA-approved for weight loss for patients with severe obesity, or who are overweight and have one or more weight-associated conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Last December, the FDA also approved Wegovy as a treatment for teenagers with obesity.

"I did a lot of research and, you know, looked at the studies," Bush told "Good Morning America." "We did try dieting and exercising before. It just wasn't happening the way that we would have liked it to happen."

VIDEO: Teens turning to popular weight loss drug Wegovy (ABCNews.com)
VIDEO: Teens turning to popular weight loss drug Wegovy (ABCNews.com)

Since starting on Wegovy 16 months ago, Bush said she has lost 110 pounds.

Brian said he has lost nearly 30 pounds while taking Wegovy for the past five months.

"Now I don't have seconds, and I started eating less," he said.

PHOTO: Brian, 15, has lost 30 pounds in five months, according to his mom, Rasheeda Bush. (Rasheeda Bush)
PHOTO: Brian, 15, has lost 30 pounds in five months, according to his mom, Rasheeda Bush. (Rasheeda Bush)

Wegovy, made by Novo Nordisk, is part of a class of drugs called GLP-1 Receptor Agonists that help people produce insulin to lower the amount of sugar in the blood.

The drugs, made from a compound called semaglutide, work by slowing down movement of food through the stomach and curbing appetite, thereby causing weight loss.

Edward Kent, 15, said he has lost nearly 50 pounds while taking Wegovy, which his mom Barbara Van Eeckhout is also taking.

"It changed how I look at food and how I do things," Edward told "GMA." "It's basically just going to change my life, or it has."

Van Eeckhout said the medication has sparked a dramatic health improvement for her son, who had fatty liver disease and abnormal liver function tests prior to starting Wegovy.

"When he went on the Wegovy, that helped his liver function test to go back to completely normal," she said. "And he's also had to have a liver biopsy, which showed that the hypertension, the portal hypertension and the liver changes that were happening from the obesity have gone almost back to normal."

PHOTO: Edward Kent, 15, and his mom, Barbara Van Eeckhout, said they are both taking Wegovy, a weight loss medication. (ABC)
PHOTO: Edward Kent, 15, and his mom, Barbara Van Eeckhout, said they are both taking Wegovy, a weight loss medication. (ABC)

In January, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that doctors consider adding weight-loss drugs such as semaglutide as a treatment for some patients.

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The recommendation came as obesity remains a "serious problem" for young people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 20%, or around 14.7 million children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 in the U.S. are considered obese, according to the CDC.

Obesity-related medical complications, according to the CDC, can include everything from high blood pressure and high cholesterol to Type 2 diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea, and joint problems.

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Dr. Claudia Fox, associate professor of pediatric medicine at the University of Minnesota, said there is an "eagerness" to use weight loss medications like Wegovy among patients because of their success.

PHOTO: A selection of injector pens for the Wegovy weight loss drug in Chicago, Mar. 31, 2023. (Jim Vondruska/Reuters)
PHOTO: A selection of injector pens for the Wegovy weight loss drug in Chicago, Mar. 31, 2023. (Jim Vondruska/Reuters)

Fox noted that while the medications can help patients, more research needs to be done on their long-term effects.

"We need much more robust research on long-term side effects, long-term durability of the effect of these medications," she said. "There's a lot of unanswered questions still."

Known side effects of the class of drugs called GLP-1 Receptor Agonists can include severe nausea and constipation.

They cannot be given to patients with certain medical conditions, including medullary thyroid cancer, pancreatitis or gallstones.

Wegovy is also not recommended for people who have previously had suicidal thoughts.

As weight loss drugs' popularity grows, teens turn to Wegovy for help originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com