Semaglutide Injection Cuts Heart Risk by 20 Percent: Study

The blockbuster weight loss drug Wegovy may reduce heart attack and stroke risk by 20 percent among overweight and obese people, according to preliminary data announced by the drug’s manufacturer Novo Nordisk.

This initial evidence suggests that the medication, aimed for obese people who also have weight-related medical problems, offers therapeutic advantages beyond just reducing weight.

Early Trial Data and Results

The SELECT  cardiovascular trial involved over 17,600 overweight or obese adults aged 45 or older with a history of cardiovascular disease but not type 1 or type 2 diabetes. For up to five years, participants received either once a week injections of 2.4 mg of semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy, or a placebo, along with standard cardiovascular care.

The goal was to compare the effects on major adverse cardiovascular events, defined as cardiovascular death, nonfatal heart attack, or nonfatal stroke.

The primary objective of “demonstrating a statistically significant and superior reduction” of such adverse events was achieved, according to Novo Nordisk.

The company expects to file for regulatory approval in 2023 to expand semaglutide’s label indications in the U.S. and EU based on these findings.

“People living with obesity have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease but to date, there are no approved weight management medications proven to deliver effective weight management while also reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death,” Martin Holst Lange, executive vice president for development at Novo Nordisk, said in a statement.

Detailed results from SELECT will be presented at a scientific conference later this year.

The news builds on previous results showing that semaglutide, in a different oral formulation, helped achieve significant weight loss among overweight or obese adults with one or more comorbidities. In May, Novo Nordisk announced that an oral semaglutide pill of 50 mg led to 17.4 percent weight loss after 68 weeks compared to 1.8 percent with placebo.

Novo Nordisk will not yet comment on whether it can meet the potential increased demand for semaglutide following these results, according to Ambre James-Brown, global vice president of Media & Digital Global Communication at Novo Nordisk. More information will be presented at a media conference call on Thursday, she told The Epoch Times.

Semaglutide May Also Help People with Diabetes: Expert

The GLP-1 receptor agonists, a class of medications that include semaglutide, have demonstrated cardiovascular benefits in previous trials, including reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, Dr. Marc Goldschmidt, director of the Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy Center at Stony Brook Heart Institute, who was not involved in the SELECT study, told The Epoch Times.

These new findings position the drug class as a promising treatment for diabetes alongside conventional insulin therapy.

“Insulin, for instance, in type 2 diabetics, can rigorously control someone’s sugar, yet it has never been shown to reduce heart endpoints of cardiovascular death, stroke, heart failure,” Dr. Goldschmidt said.

Wegovy and other GLP-1 receptor agonists represent an additional medication class for diabetes with established cardiac benefits, he added. Wegovy can benefits diabetics not only through improved glucose control but also though weight loss and reducing the likelihood of stroke and heart attack.

However, gastrointestinal side effects may make the drug intolerable for some patients. “The Achilles heel for this class of medications is going to be the nausea or vomiting,” Dr. Goldschmidt said.

Health Insurance Coverage for Weight Loss Drugs

The SELECT trial findings may help compel health insurance companies to cover the high cost of Wegovy, which exceeds $1,000 per month, according to Dr. Goldschmidt. “That’s another headache,” he said. “Because these medications are lifesaving, but insurance companies don’t want to pay for them.”

There is a surging demand for weight-loss drugs, such as Wegovy, Ozempic (an FDA-approved prescription drug for type 2 diabetes), and Saxenda (approved for treating obese individuals aged 12 and older). However, these drugs incur high production costs. As a result, many insurance plans either decline coverage or impose restrictions to cut spending.

The financial burden is becoming unsustainable for some employer health plans. In response, they are adapting coverage to control expenses while still providing access. For example, the University of Michigan increased co-pays for employees but will continue offering coverage, per a university announcement.

Out-of-pocket costs can dampen consumer interest in these medications. As much as 45 percent of people are interested in trying them, but only 16 percent are willing to pay the full price themselves, a recent KFF poll, a nonprofit organization focused on health research, has found.

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