For obese people suffering from Type 2 diabetes, their weight can often enough be a source of great frustration.

Not only is obesity and overweightness a significant risk factor of eventually developing diabetes, but individuals with diabetes face an even more uphill climb in losing weight compared to those without diabetes — though it should be noted that long-term weight loss in general is very difficult.

Now, a new study published in JAMA today provides evidence that the drug liraglutide may be able to boost the weight-losing capability of this population.

The study authors enrolled 846 participants from nine countries to take part in a 68 week-long randomized, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled study of liraglutide from 2011 to 2013. Liraglutide most recently obtained FDA approval for the treatment of obesity in December 2014 (under the brand name Saxenda) and was already approved as a medication for Type 2 diabetes in 2010 (as Victoza).

The study subjects were divided into three groups: 423 who received a daily 3.0-milligram dose of liraglutide; 211 given a 1.8-milligram dose; and 212 given a placebo. All were given their treatment subcutaneously, or under the skin — similar to how an insulin shot is often delivered.

The participants weighed on average around 230 pounds, entered the study with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 27 or over, and throughout the course of the study were all placed on a diet that lowered their daily caloric intake by 500 calories and an exercise regimen that involved more than 150 minutes of physical activity a week.

By the end of the study — which included a 12 week-long observational period afterwards — the 3.0-mg group lost, on average, 6 percent of their original weight (14.1 pounds), the 1.8 group lost 4.7 percent (11 pounds), and the control group lost 2 percent (4.8 pounds). In addition, 54.3 percent of the 3.0-mg group lost at least 5 percent body weight, compared to 21.4 percent of the control group, and 10 percent weight loss occurred in 25.2 percent of the 3.0-mg group, compared to 6.7 percent of the latter.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study specifically designed to investigate the efficacy of liraglutide for weight management in patients with type 2 diabetes and also the first study to investigate liraglutide at the higher 3.0-mg dose in a population with type 2 diabetes,” the authors concluded. “In the present trial, liraglutide (3.0 mg), as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, was effective and generally well tolerated and was significantly better than placebo on all 3 co-primary weight-related end points.”

Though Saxenda (the highest dose being 3.0-mg) is meant to be used for obesity treatment, it currently isn’t advised for those with diabetes. And while this current study didn’t find any lasting side effects, several previous studies of animals who were given high doses of Saxenda found an increased risk of developing thyroid tumors, some of which became cancerous. It’s enough of a concern that Saxenda’s warning label recommends that those with a family history of medullary thyroid cancer not take the drug.

Still, the researchers are encouraged, if cautious, about their results. “Further studies are needed to evaluate longer-term efficacy and safety,” they wrote.

Source: Davies M, Bergenstai R, Bode B, et al. Efficacy of Liraglutide for Weight Loss Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes — The SCALE Diabetes Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2015