The obesity drug Wegovy can reduce the risk of severe heart problems by 20%, a pivotal study finds, paving the way for applications far beyond weight loss.
“It moves from a kind of therapy that reduces body weight to a therapy that reduces cardiovascular events,” said Dr. Michael Lincoff, the study’s lead author and a heart expert at the Cleveland Clinic.
The results of the large clinical trial were presented Saturday at the American Heart Association conference in Philadelphia and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The research, paid for by Wegovy and Ozempic maker Novo Nordisk, enrolled over 17,600 people from 41 countries.
Patients were 45 years or older and had a preexisting cardiovascular disease and a body-mass index of 27 or greater — but no history of diabetes.
Half the patients got weekly injections of Wegovy or a placebo shot — with participants tracked for more than three years on average.
569, or 6.5%, of those who received the drug experienced a heart attack or stroke or died from a heart-related cause, compared with 701, or 8%, of those who had the dummy shot.
The participants on Wegovy lost around 10% of their weight on average and kept those pounds off throughout the trial.
Dr. Martha Gulati, a heart expert at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, noted that the Wegovy patients also saw improvement in their inflammation, cholesterol, blood sugars and blood pressure.
“It means to me that it’s more than just weight loss, how this drug works,” said Gulati, who did not author the study.
It’s unclear whether those results are from losing weight or the drug itself.
Novo Nordisk has requested the Food and Drug Administration include heart benefits on Wegovy’s label, like on Ozempic’s label.
Wegovy is a high-dose version of Ozempic, which has been shown to decrease the risk of serious heart issues in people with diabetes. This new study is groundbreaking for focusing on people without diabetes.
Participants of the latest study did report major side effects, which have dogged these types of obesity medications from the outset.
Nearly 17% of people on Wegovy discontinued the treatment because of “adverse events,” such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, while 8% of the placebo group dropped out.
“Ozempic finger,” “Ozempic burp,” “Ozempic butt,” “Ozempic face” and weird dreams about celebrities are among the downsides that have been reported by users in recent months.
There are also hefty price tags — monthly costs range from about $1,300 for Wegovy to about $1,000 for Eli Lilly’s Zepbound, a version of the diabetes medication Mounjaro, approved last week by the FDA for weight control.
These drugs are often not covered by private health insurance — or there are strict preauthorization requirements if they are.
With Post wires