A recent study has found that the weight-loss drug Wegovy can reduce the risk of serious heart problems by 20% in individuals with heart disease but not diabetes. This is the first research to demonstrate that an obesity medication can not only help with weight loss but also prevent heart attacks, strokes, and heart-related deaths in individuals with existing heart conditions. The findings have the potential to change the perception of obesity drugs as primarily cosmetic treatments and may put pressure on health insurers to cover them.
Wegovy is a high-dose version of the diabetes treatment Ozempic, which has previously been shown to reduce the risk of heart problems in individuals with diabetes. The study aimed to determine if the same benefits could be observed in individuals without the disease. Losing weight has long been known to improve heart health, but until now, there hasn't been a safe and effective obesity medication proven to reduce specific risks.
The study, funded by the maker of Wegovy and Ozempic, included over 17,500 participants from 41 countries. The participants were aged 45 and older, had a body mass index of 27 or higher, and were tracked for an average of over three years. They were randomly assigned to receive either injections of Wegovy or a placebo.
The results showed that the group receiving Wegovy had a 20% reduction in the risk of heart attacks, strokes, or heart-related deaths compared to the placebo group. Additionally, the Wegovy group experienced significant drops in markers of heart disease, such as inflammation, cholesterol, blood sugars, blood pressure, and waist circumference. However, it remains unclear how much of the results were due to the weight loss associated with the drug or the drug itself.
Approximately one-third of the study participants reported serious side effects, with gastrointestinal issues being the most common reason for dropping out of the study. It is worth noting that the study primarily included men and white individuals, so future research should aim to include more women and individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Wegovy is part of a new class of injectable medications for obesity, which includes Eli Lilly's Zepbound. Both drugs have high price tags and have been in short supply. Private health insurance often does not cover these medications, and Medicare, the government health plan for older Americans, is currently prohibited from covering drugs for weight loss alone. However, the results of this study and others demonstrating the direct impact of obesity drugs on health problems could influence coverage decisions in the future.
Overall, this study presents promising findings regarding the potential benefits of Wegovy for individuals with heart disease. However, further research is needed to understand the full extent of these benefits and to include a more diverse range of participants in future studies.