Still life of Wegovy, an injectable prescription weight loss drug that has helped obese people. It should be used in conjunction with a weight loss plan and physical activity.
Michael Silk | UCG | Getty Images
novo nordisk Wegovy reduced the risk of serious cardiovascular complications in people with obesity and heart disease in closely watched trials, and showed particularly strong effects against heart attacks. This is a promising new frontier for this drug.
The Select study, which included approximately 17,500 people, tested Wegovy on people with obesity and heart disease, but not diabetes. Detailed results from a trial presented Saturday at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions and simultaneously published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that weekly Wegovy shots reduce heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease. The overall risk was reduced by 20%. Novo Nordisk he disclosed topline data of the study in August.
Findings could lead to increased insurance coverage for Wegovy, This has so far been a major barrier for this drug and similar GLP-1 agonists, spurring more widespread use of anti-obesity drugs.
“This is the first time that a drug approved for the management of chronic obesity can be considered life-saving,” said Dr. Robert Kushner, professor of endocrinology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who worked on the study.
The new data could also help the Danish drugmaker maintain its lead over Eli Lilly, whose rival weight loss drug Zepbound was approved in the United States earlier this week. Zepbound has been shown to help you lose more weight, but its effects on cardiovascular disease have not yet been demonstrated.
“If you look at what insurance companies are going to have to do, they’re going to mandate the use of drugs that reduce cardiovascular events,” said Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director of the Prevention Center. A cardiovascular disease specialist at NYU Langone Heart who was involved in the study.
Wegovy reduced the risk of nonfatal heart attacks by 28% in a five-year trial. Although there were very few strokes in the trial overall, there was a 7% reduction in non-fatal strokes.
Additionally, Wegovy began to show a reduction in overall cardiovascular events within a few months of participants starting taking the drug, and the difference between the drug and placebo widened as the study continued.
About two-thirds of participants had blood sugar levels in the prediabetic range. Wegovy reduced progression to diabetes by 73%, suggesting the drug could be used as an early treatment. Novo’s Ozempic uses the same active ingredients as Wigoby and is approved for diabetes.
The study enrolled patients with both BMIs meeting the overweight or obese thresholds, but most of the patients were considered obese.
Almost 17% of people who received Wegovy in the trial stopped taking the drug, mainly because of gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea, while the rate of people who stopped taking a placebo was twice as high. However, more people in the control group experienced serious adverse events, including heart disease and medical procedures.
Kushner, who specializes in caring for overweight and obese patients, said the cancellation may reflect a lack of familiarity with Wegovy among doctors who participated in the study. Adjusting your dosage or adjusting your diet can help you avoid unpleasant side effects.
Participants also lost less weight in this study than in previous studies examining Wegovy, but the study did not incorporate lifestyle changes and included people with different characteristics.
One of the limitations of the study was the lack of diversity. Nearly three-quarters of participants were male, and even more were white. Only about 4% of participants were Black.
Either way, doctors hope the results will increase the number of people taking Wegovy.
Dr. George Dangas, chief of surgery in the Structural Heart Program at the Mount Sinai Health System, said the positive cardiovascular and metabolic effects of anti-diabetic drugs are important for treating obese patients with cardiovascular disease. It will open a new door.” However, incorporating it into clinical practice can take time and energy.
“Those are good questions,” Dangas said. “There’s something good for patients, and that’s great.”
—CNBC’s Patrick Manning contributed to this report.