FDA approves treatment doctors say is the most effective weight loss drug on the market. But can it really make a difference?

Over the years, she has tried at least 15 fad diets advertised on magazine covers. Sometimes she lost weight, then would gain it all back, plus an additional pound or two.

“You can put somebody skinny who looks really great on a magazine cover and say they did the ‘fill-in-the-blank diet,’ but that’s unrealistic for somebody who has chronic obesity,” said Robillard, 54. “It was a constant roller coaster of gaining and losing weight … and I couldn’t figure out why it was so difficult for me.”

The Alexandria, Virginia, resident never tried to control her weight with medications until she participated in the clinical trial for a new use of the diabetes drug semaglutide. In 68 weeks she lost 63 pounds.

“With the trial, that light went up,” she said. “That was the first time I realized: ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t about willpower. There’s a physical aspect to this.”

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the 2.4 mg dose of semaglutide – under the brand name Wegovy – that Robillard and about 800 other trial participants took as a treatment for chronic obesity. Doctors say it could become the gold standard to treat the chronic and stigmatized health condition that afflicts more than 40% of adult Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.