Patients who took weight-loss drug Wegovy for a year had a reduced risk of heart disease in an early hint that Novo Nordisk’s top-selling obesity drug may also have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.
People followed in one study saw their 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease drop by 18%, said Andres Acosta, associate professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. The researchers used a standardized cardiac risk survey to assess about 100 people, mostly white women, who took Wegovy over the course of a year at clinical sites in the United States.
The study took place in the real world rather than a clinical trial, meaning there was no control group, so the researchers couldn’t say for sure if the improvement was due in Wegovy, known generically as semaglutide, or whether other factors might have been at play. But the result is a positive sign as doctors await the results of a larger, more rigorous trial conducted by Novo, Acosta said in an interview.
The results are “a good sign that the Select trials that are underway for overall cardiovascular mortality will hopefully be successful,” Acosta said in an interview, using the name given to the study by Novo. “But we have to wait for those studies.” He presented the results at the European Obesity Congress in Dublin.
The largest trial is following 17,500 patients who are obese and have a history of cardiovascular disease, and its results are expected this summer.
Although the much smaller Mayo Clinic study was not randomized, its authors observed positive effects on blood pressure, blood sugar and liver function and less use of other medications, Grace O said. ‘Malley, head of the obesity research and care group at the Irish University of Medicine and Health Sciences RCSI, who was not involved in the trial.
Hearing about “results other than body weight alone” is crucial, O’Malley said, noting the frequency of side effects. “Access to obesity medication should be protected for people with obesity-related complications and should not be used to attempt to alter body size for cosmetic reasons.”
The Mayo Clinic team also looked at patients’ weight loss and side effects. Weight loss averaged around 13% of body weight in around 300 patients followed by the group, mirroring what had been observed in randomized clinical trials. About half experienced side effects, mainly nausea, as well as diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation.
Up to 5% of Wegovy patients required hospitalization or emergency room visits due to serious side effects, a higher number than seen in clinical trials, according to Acosta. The hospital visits were the result of patients dehydrating due to uncontrollable nausea and vomiting, he said, a sign that doctors will need to monitor patients closely as weight-loss drugs are more widely prescribed.
The real-world trial reflected the supply restrictions faced by obese patients. Doctors at the clinic had prescribed the drug to about 1,000 people, but only about 300 were able to start taking it, Acosta said. Patients had difficulty accessing medicines due to shortages as well as lack of insurance coverage.