A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Liraglutide for Adolescents with Obesity

N Engl J Med. 2020 May 28;382(22):2117-2128. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1916038. Epub 2020 Mar 31.


Background: Obesity is a chronic disease with limited treatment options in pediatric patients. Liraglutide may be useful for weight management in adolescents with obesity.

Methods: In this randomized, double-blind trial, which consisted of a 56-week treatment period and a 26-week follow-up period, we enrolled adolescents (12 to <18 years of age) with obesity and a poor response to lifestyle therapy alone. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive either liraglutide (3.0 mg) or placebo subcutaneously once daily, in addition to lifestyle therapy. The primary end point was the change from baseline in the body-mass index (BMI; the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) standard-deviation score at week 56.

Results: A total of 125 participants were assigned to the liraglutide group and 126 to the placebo group. Liraglutide was superior to placebo with regard to the change from baseline in the BMI standard-deviation score at week 56 (estimated difference, -0.22; 95% confidence interval [CI], -0.37 to -0.08; P = 0.002). A reduction in BMI of at least 5% was observed in 51 of 113 participants in the liraglutide group and in 20 of 105 participants in the placebo group (estimated percentage, 43.3% vs. 18.7%), and a reduction in BMI of at least 10% was observed in 33 and 9, respectively (estimated percentage, 26.1% vs. 8.1%). A greater reduction was observed with liraglutide than with placebo for BMI (estimated difference, -4.64 percentage points) and for body weight (estimated difference, -4.50 kg [for absolute change] and -5.01 percentage points [for relative change]). After discontinuation, a greater increase in the BMI standard-deviation score was observed with liraglutide than with placebo (estimated difference, 0.15; 95% CI, 0.07 to 0.23). More participants in the liraglutide group than in the placebo group had gastrointestinal adverse events (81 of 125 [64.8%] vs. 46 of 126 [36.5%]) and adverse events that led to discontinuation of the trial treatment (13 [10.4%] vs. 0). Few participants in either group had serious adverse events (3 [2.4%] vs. 5 [4.0%]). One suicide, which occurred in the liraglutide group, was assessed by the investigator as unlikely to be related to the trial treatment.

Conclusions: In adolescents with obesity, the use of liraglutide (3.0 mg) plus lifestyle therapy led to a significantly greater reduction in the BMI standard-deviation score than placebo plus lifestyle therapy. (Funded by Novo Nordisk; NN8022-4180 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02918279.).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis
  • Healthy Lifestyle*
  • Humans
  • Incretins / adverse effects
  • Incretins / therapeutic use*
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Liraglutide / adverse effects
  • Liraglutide / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity / blood
  • Pediatric Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Pediatric Obesity / therapy


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Incretins
  • Liraglutide

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02918279