More Interesting Things About GLP-1 Receptor Agonists

For, Deborah Hinnen wrote, “Proper patient selection and education can assist in achieving positive treatment outcomes.” The writer is talking about the utility of the GLP-1 drugs in treating diabetes, but the same can be said of their use to fight obesity. Patient selection implies that some people, even if they could greatly benefit from any particular treatment, are just not suited to it for other reasons.

Education is paramount in any case. We hope that the patient will take any words that come directly from the physician’s mouth as gospel, and strive to obey “doctor’s orders” to the best of their understanding and ability.

But during office visits, patients are often not at their psychological best. They are worried about how to rearrange their lives to accommodate the new demands made upon them and their families. They are concerned about expenses, and thinking ahead to the possibility that today’s prescription might not help at all, and there will be rough times in store.

Sometimes they have what we used to quaintly call a “mental block” against absorbing certain items of information. An adult patient will sometimes bring along a friend to pay attention and take notes. For a minor individual, of course, there is a good chance that a parent will be present — which is not guaranteed to be a solution, as the attention span and comprehension depth of a parent or guardian can never be taken for granted, either.


In an office setting, no matter what the doctor says or forgets to say, in the best-case scenario other staff members will make every effort to assure that the instructions and warnings are understood. They will ask if the patient has any questions, or needs clarification about anything. They might hand out a printed information sheet, or directions to a helpful online resource. Of course, even then, there is no guarantee that the helpful information will be pursued or assimilated.

The “I” word

Of more immediate interest is a recent report with the word “injury” in its title: “Acute Kidney and Liver Injury Associated With Low-Dose Liraglutide in an Obese Adolescent Patient.” This paper originates with four members of the Faculty of Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The complete work is accessible for a fee.

The brief summary version begins by recalling that liraglutide was approved in 2020 for people aged 12 through 18, as an adjunctive therapy for weight management “in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.” It goes on to say,

Although reports in adults have suggested a link between liraglutide and adverse effects including hepatic injury and acute kidney injury (AKI), these effects have not previously been reported among adolescents treated with liraglutide for weight loss.

The cause for alarm was the experience of a 17-year-old boy afflicted with class III obesity, which is the more recent enlightened term for what used to be called morbid obesity. He had been using liraglutide (at its lowest recommended dose) for three months, and consequently experienced not only significant appetite loss, and weight loss, but a sensation of melancholy. By the standard of the Adverse Drug Reaction Probability Scale, it seemed clear that the liraglutide was also responsible for the injury to his liver and kidneys.

After being off the medication for a month, his kidney issue had settled down and his liver enzymes had reverted to normal, and there was an improvement in his mood. The authors note,

Our report highlights the importance of vigilance in monitoring for these potential adverse effects among adolescents treated for obesity with any dose of liraglutide.

Liraglutide had been approved in 2010 as antidiabetic therapy for adults. A document from that year states that some rodent study results were troubling, but there was no firm evidence of adverse effects on humans. Reports of several different conditions, like pancreatitis, appeared here and there, but in very small numbers, and the evidence to connect the cases with the drug was just not there.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 Receptor Agonists for Type 2 Diabetes,”, 2017
Source: “Acute Kidney and Liver Injury Associated With Low-Dose Liraglutide in an Obese Adolescent Patient,”, 06/12/24
Source: “Weighing Risks and Benefits of Liraglutide — The FDA’s Review of a New Antidiabetic Therapy,”, 03/04/10
Image by the healthy blog/Public Domain

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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