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This is part of a series about new obesity drugs that are transforming patients’ lives, dividing medical experts, and spurring one of the biggest business battles in years. Read more about The Obesity Revolution.

One month it was pizza. Starting in the late afternoon, while he was teaching a chem lab or grading student work, a part of Anthony Fernandez’s brain would stray to visions of steaming pies. The thought of sinking his teeth into one would tug at him as he packed up his things and walked to his car. By the time he pulled out of the Merrimack College campus, the urge would become a tractor beam, reeling him into the small shop just shy of Route 125 for a slice or three.


It would go on like that for weeks. Intrusive phantom wafts of bubbling hot cheese seeping into his psychic space. An unwelcome rush of saliva. A pizza-shaped itch begging to be scratched. Then suddenly they would be gone. Replaced by a new fixation: coconut jelly sticks from Heav’nly Donuts one month, Dunkin’s Beyond Sausage sandwich the next.

Fernandez knew it was these roving food obsessions that were losing him his latest weight loss battle. The 53-year-old chemistry professor had been hovering between 275 and 295 pounds for most of his adult life. At 5’10”, that made him obese by most body mass index calculations. Then during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, while much of the rest of the country struggled with the “quarantine 15,” Fernandez shed 20 pounds while hunkering at his Massachusetts home. When he lost easy access to fast food, the weight followed.

But as stores and restaurants began to open up again, the numbers on his scale crept steadily higher. So did the number of fatty acids and excess sugar in his blood. Around Thanksgiving 2021, Fernandez’s doctor approached him about trying something different: a new weight loss drug called Wegovy.

Originally developed for people with type 2 diabetes like Fernandez’s parents, Wegovy — the brand name for one of an expanding class of injectable medicines known as GLP-1 receptor agonists — was helping people lose up to 15% of their body weight. The needles initially made him hesitate. But by late February last year, Fernandez came around to the idea. The first time he tried Wegovy, he made his wife stand next to him just in case he fainted. But the pen hid the needle from sight and he barely felt it pierce his skin. By the end of that first month, his urges had evaporated.

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