Game-changing ‘new statin’ Ozempic slashes risk of heart attack and stroke in ‘biggest breakthrough in 30 years’

14 May 2024, 00:39

Ozempic Insulin injection pen for diabetics and weight loss
Ozempic Insulin injection pen for diabetics and weight loss. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The popular weight loss drug Ozempic could reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes or heart failure in obese people regardless of how much weight they lose, a study has found.

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The findings of the study suggest the treatment could have effects beyond reducing unhealthy body fat.

The study, comprising of 17,604 adults, found 62% of patients had lost more than 5% of their bodyweight compared with 10% in the placebo group after 20 weeks of being on semaglutide.

However, the risk reduction of heart attacks, stroke or heart failure was similar in patients who lost more than 5% of their bodyweight and in those who lost less than 5%, or gained weight.

Prof Deanfield said the findings "have important clinical implications".

Ozempic. Picture: Getty

"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."

In August, researchers working on the Select trial found semaglutide reduced the risk of a heart attack or stroke in obese people with cardiovascular disease by a fifth.

A 2.4mg once-weekly dose of Wegovy, alongside standard care for the prevention of heart attacks or stroke, lowered the risk by 20% compared with those given a placebo.

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Prof Deanfield's study is one of two pieces of research based on the Select trial that are being presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Venice.

The second, led by Professor Donna Ryan, of Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in New Orleans, looked at the long-term effect of semaglutide on weight.

She said weight loss using semaglutide "can be sustained for up to four years" in adults who are overweight or obese, without diabetes.

Patients on semaglutide lost an average 10.2% of their body weight and 7.7cm from their waistline compared with 1.5% and 1.3cm respectively in the group given a placebo.

After two years, some 52% of people treated with semaglutide had moved down to a lower BMI category compared with 16% in the placebo group.

Prof Ryan added: "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."

Prof Ryan's findings have also been published in Nature Medicine.

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