Novo Nordisk has revealed that the heart protective benefits of its obesity treatment, Wegovy, are not solely due to weight loss. New data presented at a medical meeting suggests that the drug has additional positive effects beyond weight reduction. The study, which was conducted on overweight and obese patients with preexisting heart disease, showed that Wegovy reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart-related death compared to a placebo. Importantly, these cardiovascular benefits appeared before patients started losing weight, indicating that weight loss alone is not responsible for the heart protection provided by Wegovy.
The trial did not investigate how Wegovy prevents heart disease from occurring, but rather focused on its ability to prevent the condition from worsening. Despite this limitation, the large patient population covered by the trial should prompt doctors to consider prescribing Wegovy to patients with a history of heart attack or obstructive coronary disease and a body mass index over 27. Dr. Bruno Halpern, head of the obesity center at Hospital 9 de Julho in São Paulo, Brazil, even suggested that Wegovy should be a frontline treatment for heart disease.
While the exact mechanisms behind Wegovy’s cardiovascular protection are still speculative, the study researchers noted a consistent effect on associated risk factors such as inflammation, blood pressure, and blood sugar control. These factors are known to impact heart health. Patients on Wegovy experienced decreases in C-reactive proteins, an indicator of inflammation, similar to those seen with cholesterol-lowering statins. Martin Lange, Novo Nordisk’s head of development, emphasized that the cardiovascular benefits of Wegovy are a combination of various factors, including glycemic control, weight loss, and inflammation.
In terms of safety, the study showed that Wegovy was well-tolerated, with adverse side effects primarily related to gastrointestinal disorders like nausea and vomiting. However, nearly 1,500 patients discontinued Wegovy treatment due to these side effects, compared to 718 patients in the placebo group. It is worth noting that participants in the heart study were not required to track their diet and exercise, unlike in obesity trials.
The study’s results may not be applicable to all GLP1-class drugs and could be specific to semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy. Analyst Emily Field from Barclays highlighted this uncertainty. Novo Nordisk expects to update Wegovy’s label to include the heart benefits, with approval anticipated in the U.S. and EU next year.
In related news, Eli Lilly’s weight-loss treatment, previously marketed as Mounjaro for diabetes, was recently approved by U.S. and UK drug regulators.
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