Published on November 12, 2023, 12:39 am
Popular weight loss drugs, such as semaglutide, have long been touted for their ability to help people shed pounds and control diabetes. However, recent evidence suggests that semaglutide, sold under the brand names Wegovy, Ozempic, and Rybelsus, may also have a positive impact on reducing the risk of dying from heart disease in certain patients.
A study sponsored by semaglutide’s maker Novo Nordisk was presented at the American Heart Association meeting and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study involved over 17,000 people without diabetes but with a history of heart attack, stroke, or circulatory symptoms who were overweight or obese.
The participants were assigned either semaglutide or a placebo. After more than three years, those who received semaglutide lost about 9% of their body weight compared to less than 1% in the placebo group. Furthermore, those receiving semaglutide saw a 20% reduction in their risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke or dying from a heart event compared to those receiving the placebo.
“These results are astounding,” says Dr. Holly Lofton, director of the medical weight management program at NYU Langone Health. “I think this will change prescribing practices.” The findings provide strong evidence supporting the use of weight loss medication in treating heart patients who are overweight or obese.
Dr. Bruno Manno, a clinical professor of cardiology at NYU Langone who attended the presentation, is amazed by the results as well. He shared that approximately half of his patients qualify for treatment with semaglutide but face obstacles such as high cost and lack of insurance coverage.
Adding heart benefits to the drug’s label could potentially convince more insurers to cover it. Novo Nordisk has filed a request with the FDA to update the label for semaglutide (Wegovy) to include information about its ability to reduce the risk of additional heart events.
Despite the encouraging results, it’s important to note that lifestyle modifications, such as changes in diet and exercise habits, are still crucial for lowering the risk of heart disease. Dr. Amit Khera, director of the Preventive Cardiology Program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, emphasizes that lifestyle changes should always be the first line of defense against cardiovascular disease, with medication used as a supplemental option when necessary.
Moving forward, ensuring access and availability of semaglutide will be essential. Demand for the drug has already increased significantly, but supply constraints may persist until at least 2024. However, with these groundbreaking findings, semaglutide offers new hope in the fight against obesity-related heart disease.
In conclusion, semaglutide has shown promising results in reducing both weight and the risk of heart events in overweight or obese individuals with a history of heart disease. While more research is needed to fully understand how semaglutide impacts the heart, this breakthrough presents an exciting new treatment avenue for patients with cardiovascular disease.