Results from a major new study suggest that the weight loss medication Wegovy has reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular problems by 20% among overweight or obese individuals with heart disease. This impressive benefit could potentially change the standard treatment for these patients.
The study, which is the largest and longest trial ever conducted with semaglutide (the primary drug in Ozempic and Wegovy), followed over 17,000 adults aged 45 and older for up to five years. The vast majority of participants were white, and over two-thirds were male.
“We have just identified a new best practice,” said Dr. Clyde Yancy, head of the cardiology division at Northwestern Medicine, who was not involved in the study. However, the research also raises questions about how exactly the medication helps the heart – whether through weight loss itself or other mechanisms – and whether it can be as effective in a real-world setting with a more diverse group of patients than those included in the study.
Nevertheless, the study’s findings, presented on Saturday (November 11) during the American Heart Association meeting in Philadelphia, mark a turning point for the highly sought-after new class of medications for obesity and diabetes, which includes Ozempic and the newly approved Zepbound.
Pharmaceutical companies see potential for these medications that goes far beyond treating obesity. Demonstrating that they not only treat diabetes and help patients lose weight, but also reduce the risk of other serious diseases associated with obesity, could further boost demand and put pressure on insurance companies to cover them on a larger scale.
The study is “one of the most anticipated trials of the past decade,” said Dr. Yuan Lu, assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. Apart from statins, she stated that no medication has so drastically reduced cardiovascular risk among individuals with heart disease. “Acceptance of this drug will skyrocket in the coming years,” she affirmed.
Novo Nordisk, the company that manufactures Wegovy and Ozempic and funded the study, stated that they have already submitted documentation to the FDA and European Union regulators to update Wegovy’s label to include its potential to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in certain patients.