New Wegovy clinical trial finds surprising benefits that go way beyond weight loss

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024
New Wegovy clinical trial finds surprising benefits beyond weight loss
Researchers at the European Congress of Obesity released results of a new clinical trial of Wegovy, the weight loss version of Ozempic.

LOS ANGELES -- For the last few years, we've been hearing how semaglutide weight loss drugs can help with heart failure and heart attack. This week at the European Congress of Obesity, researchers released the overall results of the longest clinical trial yet of the drug Wegovy, the weight loss version of Ozempic.

After four years of following patients, the select trial revealed how quickly it works, if patients keep the weight off and something else surprising.

"The beneficial effects on cardiovascular health seem to be independent of weight loss," said Dr. Mir Ali, director of bariatric surgery at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center. He said the new analysis funded by Novo Nordisk suggests something else is at play because a significant reduction in heart attack and stroke was present even in Wegovy users who didn't lose weight.

"These medications may have an effect on inflammation, and chronic inflammation can contribute to a lot of health issues," he said.

Blood sugar control may be another factor. Whether this once-weekly subcutaneous medication should be prescribed to heart patients without obesity still needs more study.

But for shedding pounds, the results show the average body weight reduction of about 10% continued for a year and was more or less sustained for up to four years.

"When people stopped these types of medications, they did gain some weight, but it is not as dramatic as was previously reported," Ali said.

As far as safety, there are no surprises. Serious side effects such as gastroparesis were rare. The more common nausea, diarrhea and constipation were reasons why some people stopped taking it. The steep out-of-pocket costs even with insurance are another reason.

"The patients can have a significant co-pay. It is not sustainable for a lot of people," he said.

Ali said people should remember that Wegovy and other similar weight loss drugs are not magic potions - you still have to do the work.

"The goal of these interventions is to provide tools to help the patient to switch to a healthier diet, a healthier lifestyle," Ali said.

Ali also discussed how difficult it is for his patients to get Wegoy or its competitor Zepbound because it's so popular. Novo Nordisk says more than 25,000 people in the U.S. are starting Wegovy every week.

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