Weight-loss jab can cut risk of heart attacks and strokes by a fifth, study suggests

8 August 2023, 23:02

A study has shown the drug could reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
A study has shown the drug could reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

A weight-loss drug could help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by a fifth when given to overweight and obese people, a study has claimed.

The drug’s manufacturer released a study showing how the drug, named Wegovy, can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues.

Carried out by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, the company recruited more than 17,500 overweight and obese adults for the trial.

It followed people aged 45 and over, with a BMI of 27 or more and a history of heart disease for five years.

In the subsequent five years, it found that those given Wegovy were much less likely to suffer from heart issues than those who received standard treatment.

The risk of a heart attack or stroke in those given a 2.4mg weekly dose of the drug, alongside standard care for cardiovascular issues, was reduced by 20% compared to those given a placebo drug.

Novo Nordisk’s executive vice president for development said: “People living with obesity have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but to date there are no approved weight management medications proven to deliver effective weight management while also reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death.

"Therefore, we are very excited about the results from the trial showing that semaglutide 2.4mg reduces the risk of cardiovascular events.”

He also said the trial “has the potential to change how obesity is regarded and treated”.

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The drug manufacturer's company said they are 'excited' about the results.
The drug manufacturer's company said they are 'excited' about the results. Picture: Alamy

Professor Stephen O'Rahilly, director of the MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit at the University of Cambridge also said the results "have been long awaited and do not disappoint".

He said: “Simply put, a drug which acts to reduce body weight by targeting appetite, if taken long term by people who are overweight or obese, significantly reduces their risk of serious cardiovascular events, such as heart attack,”

“The obvious conclusion of these findings is that we should view obesity as a medical condition, like high blood pressure, where effective and safe drug therapy can contribute to reducing serious adverse health outcomes.”

The study results come after experts suggested people on weight loss jabs should be prepared to take them for life.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said earlier this year Wegovy should not be taken for more than two years, but studies have since shown that stopping the drug can result in patients regaining the weight they have lost.

“We do have to think about these medicines as long-term medications despite the fact that, for Nice at the moment, it's only two years of treatment,” John Wilding, a professor of medicine at the University of Liverpool said.

“We do know that obesity is a chronic disease and we would never think of just giving somebody a diabetes drug or blood pressure drug for two years and then stopping it because, of course, at that point the disease will recur.

"We know that happens with obesity. So, I do think we have to think about this as long-term treatment and that's something that is yet to be addressed from a policy perspective."

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