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Sharp rise in use of weight-loss drugs among youth

UCI Health pediatrician urges caution

February 26, 2024
uci health pediatrician dan cooper in an office wearing a blue shirt and dark tie, smiling
UCI Health pediatrician Dr. Dan Cooper says popular weight-loss
drugs should be approached with care. Credit: Paul Kennedy.

IN THE NEWS: Although weight-loss drugs have been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a treatment for children with obesity, a UCI Health pediatrician is cautious about their effects as more U.S. adolescents receive prescriptions.

reuters news logo, black reuters letters below a circle made up of orange dotsFrom January to October of 2023, prescriptions for Wegovy among children ages 12 to 17 surged to 1,268. In 2022, just 25 children took the drug.

But UCI Health pediatrician Dr. Dan M. Cooper tells Reuters that they should be approached carefully because of the lack of research on how they affect development.

"We don't really know what these medications do in the context of the growing child.”

Cooper is the lead author of commentary about the unintended consequences of weight-loss drugs for children, including an increased risk of suicidal ideation.

The research commentary, Unintended Consequences of Glucagon-like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists Medication in Children and Adolescents – A Call to Action, was published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science.

Cooper is a distinguished professor of pediatrics at the UCI School of Medicine. He is the associate director of the UCI Institute for Clinical and Translational Science and interim director of the UCI Institute for Precision Health. Cooper’s research seeks to understand the role of physical activity and exercise in growth and development in children and adolescents in both health and disease.

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