New Oshawa research centre using weight loss medication to help prevent heart disease


Published February 22, 2023 at 12:00 pm

Centricity clinical research centre in Oshawa

A community-based clinical research centre in Oshawa is bringing “game-changing” weight loss treatments to people living between Scarborough and Belleville who are at higher risk of heart attack or stroke due to weight – medications that up until now have been deemed solely for vanity.

“When it comes to prescribing medications to help prevent heart disease, we believe weight loss should be added to the equation and given the same respect as other cardiac risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol levels,” said Dr. Rishi Handa, an internal medicine specialist at Durham Care Clinic who is heading up the newly launched Centricity Research Centre as principal investigator.

“We know effective treatments are available to help people achieve their weight loss goals and yet they remain out of reach for most patients because they are expensive and not covered by all health plans.”

One of the first studies underway at the clinic is a cardiometabolic weight trial which aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of prescribing weight loss medication to help prevent heart attack or stroke. The phase three trial is looking to enroll as many as 25 at-risk patients from the community who are 40 and above.

The new Centricity Research Centre held a ribbon-cutting event to mark its opening at 11 a.m. today (Feb. 22) at 460 King Street West in Oshawa. Qualified people at risk of cardiac disease are invited to participate in the clinical trials.

After providing informed consent and going through a screening process, patients who enroll in the study will be administered new weight loss drugs that have already completed phase one and two trials and will be monitored regularly at the clinic for bloodwork, urinalysis, vital sign checks and other physical assessments. There is no cost to participate and expenses related to time and travel are covered.

“What’s unique about our approach at this centre is that we’re able to combine Dr. Handa’s expertise in both cardiology and endocrinology to examine chronic health management in several different patient populations,” said Lydia Beaudette, Centricity Research Director, Growth & Strategic Partnerships. “Some patients come to us because they need access to a medication they can’t get otherwise and others participate for a more altruistic reason – they want to play a role in helping to advance medicine for the broader societal impact.”

Beaudette explained that the new research centre will focus on cardiometabolic disease and prevention in general and has already received approval for two additional studies expected to launch in March that will target people with type 2 diabetes and those with risk of heart failure.

“What’s important is that we’re not just waiting for someone to suffer a heart attack or other cardiac event,” said Beaudette, noting that the centre is also interested in developing patient referral relationships with healthcare providers in the community. “We’re providing novel treatment options that focus on the larger health picture of preventive medicine.”

Dr. Rishi Handa

With obesity and heart disease on the rise in Canada, weight loss is about more than just looking and feeling good, noted Handa, who said the centre’s participation in the study is “game-changing” because for the first time, it will allow for mass coverage of weight loss medications for prevention of cardiovascular disease.

The increased coverage makes them available and affordable for patients at higher risk. “We’re no longer saying weight loss is just about looking and feeling good. We’re saying weight loss improves your overall health and is an effective treatment for a lot of our common medical problems in society right now, like diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.”

According to Public Health Canada, six in 1,000 Canadians receive a new diagnosis of heart disease each year and two in 1,000 will suffer their first heart attack. At the same time, slightly more than 63 per cent of Canadians 18 and older are classified as either obese or overweight, putting them at increased health risk.

“We need to start looking at weight management as a chronic condition,” Handa explained. “For many people it’s not as simple as eating less, moving more. They have a predisposition to a genetic and/or hormonal issue that requires medication to make a real change, and if you want to see ongoing results, weight loss treatment needs to be lifelong just as it is with blood pressure or cholesterol pills.”

Centricity Research is an integrated research organization with more than 45 research offices across North America. The company has conducted Phase I-IV clinical research in 35-plus therapeutic areas for more than 25 years.

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