Semaglutide used for weight loss also helps reduce heart failure symptoms, study finds
Semaglutide is found in drugs including Ozempic and Wegovy.
A study published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine followed over 500 patients who were both overweight and had a specific type of heart failure known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.
Over the course of one year of taking weekly injections of semaglutide, the patients not only lost weight but also had significant reductions in symptoms of heart failure and saw an improvement in their ability to exercise, according to the study.
Heart failure, or congestive heart failure, happens when your heart doesn’t pump enough blood to meet the needs of your body, according to the National Institutes of Health. It impacts more than 6 million adults in the United States, meaning an accessible treatment for the condition could have widespread impact. About half of patients with heart failure have the specific kind this study looked at.
Likewise, the potential success of semaglutide in improving heart health could transform the compound's popularity even further.
Obesity is a condition that affects nearly 42% of the population and is associated with over $170 billion in medical costs in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Novo Nordisk, the company that funded the most recent study, makes both Wegovy and Ozempic, the two most popular drugs that have semaglutide as the active ingredient.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Ozempic as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes -- a chronic condition in which the body doesn't respond well to insulin -- alongside diet and exercise if other medications cannot control blood sugar levels well enough.
Although Ozempic is not explicitly approved for chronic weight management, it can be prescribed off-label and used safely for people who are obese.
Wegovy is essentially the same injectable drug as Ozempic prescribed at a higher dosage. The FDA has specifically approved Wegovy for patients with severe obesity, or who are overweight and have one or more weight-associated conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Both drugs work by slowing down movement of food through the stomach and curbing appetite, thereby causing weight loss.
Earlier this month, Novo Nordisk released preliminary results of a study that found Wegovy also helped lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, according to the company.
Wegovy lowered the risk of major cardiovascular events by 20% in a clinical trial that included over 17,000 adults ages 45 and older who have a history of cardiovascular disease and are overweight or obese, according to the Novo Nordisk-funded study.
As a result of the trial's findings, Novo Nordisk said it plans to file for a "label indication expansion" for the drug, meaning it could be available beyond obesity, and with greater insurance coverage.
Without insurance coverage, the cost of medications like Wegovy and Ozempic can run more than $1,000 a month.