Weight-loss drug could reduce heart attack risk

A study presented at the European Congress of Obesity (ECO) has unveiled promising news for millions struggling with cardiovascular health. Researchers at University College London investigated the effects of semaglutide, a medication already used for weight loss under brand names Wegovy and Ozempic.

The groundbreaking aspect? Participants taking semaglutide experienced a 20% lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events compared to a placebo group. Notably, this benefit held true regardless of how much weight they lost, suggesting semaglutide might work through additional mechanisms beyond just weight reduction.

Professor John Deanfield, the study’s lead author, believes this discovery could be as significant as the introduction of statins for cholesterol control. He proposes semaglutide could become a routine treatment for cardiovascular illnesses, potentially impacting millions in the UK within the next few years.

“This fantastic drug really is a gamechanger,” said Deanfield. “The study suggests there might be alternative mechanisms for semaglutide’s positive cardiovascular effects beyond weight loss… Quite clearly, something else is going on that benefits the cardiovascular system.”

The study involved over 17,600 participants aged 45 and over with a body mass index exceeding 27, recruited from 41 countries. All had a history of cardiovascular events like heart attacks. They were randomly assigned either a weekly 2.5mg dose of semaglutide or a placebo for an average of 40 months.

Results showed that within the semaglutide group (8,803 patients), 569 (6.5%) experienced a primary cardiovascular event. This compared favorably to the placebo group (8,801 patients), where 701 (8%) experienced similar events.

Semaglutide’s weight loss effects were also evaluated. A separate analysis based on the same trial revealed that participants taking semaglutide lost an average of 10.2% of their body weight and 7.7cm from their waist circumference over four years. This contrasted sharply with the placebo group’s average weight loss of 1.5% and a 1.3cm waist reduction.

Professor Jason Halford, president of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, emphasizes the potential economic benefits of widespread semaglutide use due to its apparent cardiovascular improvements.

“I think in the next 10 years we’ll see a radical change in the approach to healthcare,” he said. “Once the costs come down, the cost savings to the NHS will be significant… You need to get your workforce as fit as possible.”

The significant impact on cardiovascular health isn’t the only promising development. Another study explored retatrutide, a new, potentially even more effective weekly injection for weight loss. This phase 2 trial involving 338 participants with obesity suggests retatrutide might suppress appetite and boost fat burning, leading to an average weight loss of 24% over 48 weeks. Researchers believe it could be even more effective than existing options like Ozempic or Wegovy.

Professor Naveed Sattar, who has researched other weight loss treatments, expressed optimism: “Five or 10 years ago, we could never have imagined drugs that would cause this kind of weight loss… If we give this drug even longer, I think it could reach nearly 30% of someone’s body weight.”

In conclusion, the semaglutide study offers a glimpse into a future where a single medication tackles both weight management and cardiovascular health. With potentially even more effective options like retatrutide on the horizon, the outlook for managing weight and related health issues appears brighter than ever.


Leave a reply