Tuesday, Novo Nordisk announced that the popular obesity drug Wegovy reduces the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke by 20%. The findings are the first to demonstrate that a weight-loss medication has additional medical advantages.
Dr. Shauna Levy, a specialist in obesity medicine and the medical director of the Tulane Bariatric Center in New Orleans, said that the study may be persuasive enough to convince insurance companies to cover the costly medication. Novo Nordisk has not yet disclosed the complete trial results.
The weekly injections of Wegovy, which cost more than $1,300 for a month’s supply, have been deemed not medically necessary, which has made it difficult for many Wegovy users to obtain insurance coverage.
In the United States, heart disease is the primary cause of death. Dr. Holly Lofton, director of the weight management program at NYU Langone Health and an investigator in the Novo Nordisk trial, said that the evidence that Wegovy can reduce cardiac risks in addition to weight loss may alter some people’s perceptions of it as a vanity drug.
Wegovy Shows Cardiovascular Benefits for Overweight Adults
The results were based on a late-stage clinical trial involving more than 17,000 adults aged 45 and older who received Wegovy or a placebo in addition to standard care.
The participants were overweight or obese and had cardiovascular disease, but had no history of diabetes.
Novo Nordisk stated that the drug appeared to be safe and well-tolerated, consistent with findings from previous clinical trials. However, it is unknown whether the cardiovascular benefits were a consequence of weight loss or another mechanism in the drug.
Multiple diseases, including heart attack, stroke, sleep apnea, liver disease, and cancer, are associated with this condition. Clinical investigations conducted by pharmaceutical companies have demonstrated that the drugs may decrease the risk of obesity-related conditions.
Levy stated that the drug’s prospective benefits could be comparable to those of bariatric surgery, which has been shown to reduce the risk of death from cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Lofton noted that Wegovy and other GLP-1 agonists may not be appropriate for all patients. There may be severe adverse effects, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Pancreatitis has also been linked to Wegovy.