Weight Loss Drug Can Aid Heart Failure Patients

The medication semaglutide is marketed under several names and prescribed for different reasons. It can aid weight loss and blood sugar levels. It is branded as Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus. Marketed as Wegovy for weight loss, a new study has found that it can aid the quality of life for people with heart failure. Globally, 64 million people are living with health failure. Their heart can’t pump enough blood.  

The study was paid for by the drug company behind Wegovy, Novo Nordisk. It included 529 participants. It found that weekly doses of the drug led to a 17-point improvement in symptoms on a 100-point scale. People taking a placebo had a nine-point improvement. While on Wegovy, people had less shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling and trouble with exertion. People taking the medication could walk 20 meters farther than the placebo group by the end of the study.

About 80 percent of people with heart failure are overweight or obese. Wegovy made people in the study lose about 13 percent of their body weight. People in the placebo group lost less than three percent. Some people in the study quit Wegovy because they didn’t like the GI tract side effects of the medication. However, people taking the drug had fewer medical emergencies during the study than the placebo group.

The trial lasted for a year. The drugmaker is hoping that the results will help semaglutide become approved for more applications than weight loss and blood sugar control.

The trial’s lead investigator, Dr. Mikhail Kosiborod, said that the research could cause a “fundamental paradigm shift in how cardiologists approach [heart failure] in people with obesity.”

There is always distrust when a study is paid for by a company that benefits from the outcome. Analysts believe that Medicare is “almost certain” to reimburse people for prescriptions of Wagovy as evidence mounts that it has many benefits. However, they may want independently funded proof before doing so.

Despite the possible conflict of interest, doctors hope the findings will help patients. Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and the founder and executive vice president of Scripps Research, called the results “a big deal.”  

Speaking about the drug’s impact on weight loss, Dr. Nishant Shah, a preventive cardiologist at Duke Univ., said, “It’s a great agent to help people lose weight, especially if they have risk factors for cardiovascular disease. That in itself can really turn around someone’s trajectory.”

Wagovy’s impact on weight loss and blood sugar is impressive. Now, knowing that it also aided people’s cardiovascular health in this study makes it even more useful. Of course, no drug is suitable for everyone. Before starting any drug, it’s important to discuss its side effects and possible drawbacks with a doctor, especially how it could interact with other medications or impact other aspects of health. Semaglutide is growing in popularity, and this new study shows its applications will continue to grow.

Banner image: Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

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