New anti-obesity drugs reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by up to 20% in overweight people. The pharmaceutical Novo Nordisk has advanced in a press release the results of its study that, according to what they say, has been shown to reduce the risk of adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) in people with obesity and overweight, something that has already been had been shown in patients with type 2 diabetes. This study is pending publication in a scientific journal and is expected to be presented at a scientific congress later this year.
GLP1 agonists are a family of drugs that are marketed under different brand names such as Ozempic, Wegovy or Mounjaro. They help people with type 2 diabetes to regulate their insulin levels and lose up to 15% of weight. And it is this weight loss that would be associated with a decrease in cardiovascular diseases. “The previous hypothesis was that if in people with diabetes, these GLP-1s, due to their anti-inflammatory mechanism, could reduce (adverse cardiovascular) events, they could also do so in people without diabetes,” explains Cristóbal Morales, an endocrinologist at the Virgen de la Macarena Hospital in Seville and national coordinator of the study. And that hypothesis would have been proven. “This is revolutionary,” he says.
The trial, which began in 2018, included 17,604 overweight or obese adults over 45 years of age with previous cardiovascular disease and no history of diabetes. One group of participants received subcutaneous semaglutide 2.4 mg (marketed under the name Wegovy) while the other received placebo. The comparison between both groups, after five years, leaves no room for doubt. “A 20% reduction in such a short time is clinically very important,” says Dr. Morales.
The detailed results of the study, which has been carried out in 41 countries, will be presented at the American Congress of Cardiology, in the city of Philadelphia, in late 2023. But its conclusions have already had an immediate effect. Shares of Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk, maker of Ozempic and Wegovy, have soared 16% after making the study public.
The data from this recent study could add reasons for administrations to include these drugs in their portfolio for cases of people with obesity and overweight. In Spain, Ozempic is funded for diabetic patients, which can be done with four doses for 4.24 euros. Those with obesity and related health problems have to pay 130 euros for the same presentation.
To the Hollywood drug
Obesity is a chronic disease that affects millions of people in the world and is the gateway to more than 200 cardiovascular diseases and problems. Complications caused by weighing more than they should account for 9.7% of total health spending in Spain, according to the OECD. The use of GLP 1 receptor agonists could mean a significant reduction in healthcare costs and save millions of lives.
Although some of these drugs have been prescribed since 2017, their fame seems to have exploded in the last year, thanks to their use by popular figures, which has earned them the nickname of “the Hollywood drug”. The virality of these drugs on social networks (on TikTok alone, videos under the Ozempic label accumulate more than a billion views) and their remarkable effects on weight loss have caused demand far exceeding supply. In recent months, there have been shortages and an obsession with getting hold of these precious injections, even on the black market.
Wegovy is one of these drugs, created specifically for people with obesity. It has not yet begun to be marketed in Spain, where only Ozempic is available, with the same active ingredient, but financed only for people with type 2 diabetes. Asked a few weeks ago by this newspaper about an approximate launch date in Spain, Francisco Pajuelo , medical director in Spain of Novo Nordisk, declined to specify a date and assured that the shortage situation suffered by these drugs “will continue to occur throughout 2023.”
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