Ozempic provides heart benefits irrespective of weight loss outcomes – research

Four-year study found that patients lost 10 per cent of body weight on average

Revolutionary obesity drug semaglutide may deliver heart health benefits, even in patients who lose a modest amount of weight on the treatment, major new research has found.

In two long-term studies involving more than 17,000 adults with overweight or obesity but not diabetes, researchers found that patients with lower levels of obesity pre-treatment noticed cardiovascular benefits when taking the drug, marketed as Ozempic/Wegovy.

The findings build on the landmark Semaglutide and Cardiovascular Outcomes (SELECT) trial. After analysing patients for four years, the study found that patients lost on average 10 per cent of their body weight and over seven centimetres from their waistline.

“These findings have important clinical implications”, said lead researcher Prof John Deanfield of University College London. “Around half of the patients that I see in my cardiovascular practice have levels of weight equivalent to those in the SELECT trial and are likely to derive benefit from taking Semaglutide on top of their usual level of guideline directed care.”

He added: “Our findings show that the magnitude of this treatment effect with semaglutide is independent of the amount of weight lost, suggesting that the drug has other actions which lower cardiovascular risk beyond reducing unhealthy body fat. These alternative mechanisms may include positive impacts on blood sugar, blood pressure, or inflammation, as well as direct effects on the heart muscle and blood vessels, or a combination of one or more of these.”

Despite these important findings, the authors caution that SELECT is not a primary prevention trial so that the data cannot be extrapolated to all adults with overweight and obesity to prevent a major adverse cardiovascular event. The trial also does not include enough individuals from different racial groups to understand different potential effects.

In a study of the long-term effects of semaglutide, published in the journal Nature Medicine and presented today at the European Congress on Obesity in Venice, researchers found that the drug led to clinically meaningful weight loss by men and women of all races, ages, and body sizes, across all regions, and with a lower rate of serious adverse events compared with placebo.

More than half of adults taking semaglutide moved down at least one BMI category after two years compared to 16 per cent receiving placebo, and 12 per cent reached a healthy BMI (25 kg/m² or less) compared with one per cent in the placebo group.

“Our long-term analysis of semaglutide establishes that clinically relevant weight loss can be sustained for up to four years in a geographically and racially diverse population of adults with overweight and obesity but not diabetes,” said lead researcher Prof Donna Ryan of Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in New Orleans, USA.

“This degree of weight loss in such a large and diverse population suggests that it may be possible to impact the public health burden of multiple obesity-related illnesses. While our trial focused on cardiovascular events, many other chronic diseases including several types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and anxiety and depression would benefit from effective weight management.”

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