Ozempic effective at preventing heart attacks, data shows

Earlier this week, YourLifeChoices highlighted aspirin as a drug that ‘keeps on giving’. Originally used as a painkiller, then identified as helping prevent stroke in some, aspirin is considered a potential cancer treatment, too. And now semaglutide, the active ingredient in weight loss drugs such as Wegovy and Ozempic, is promising similar versatility.

In 2017, semaglutide was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in adults with type 2 diabetes. Australia’s FDA equivalent, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), soon followed suit in approving the drug, which helps lower blood sugar levels. 

Since then, semaglutide has been identified as an appetite suppressant, and is in demand as a weight loss drug. Now a study suggests semaglutide could lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death due to cardiovascular disease. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicated the risk could be reduced by as much as 20 per cent.

Semaglutide: a game changer 

The study’s lead author, Professor John Deanfield, believes semaglutide should be routinely prescribed to treat cardiovascular illnesses in future. “This fantastic drug really is a game changer,” he said. 

Prof. Deanfield emphasised that the risk reduction achieved was independent to weight loss achieved using semaglutide. His team’s research showed that cardiovascular benefits occurred regardless of starting weight, or the amount of weight lost.

“This suggests that there are potentially alternative mechanisms for that improved cardiovascular outcome with semaglutide beyond weight loss,” Prof. Deanfield said. “Quite clearly, something else is going on that benefits the cardiovascular system.”

Prof. Deanfield’s research team enrolled a total of 17,604 patients in their study. These were split into two groups of virtually equal size, with 8803 receiving semaglutide and 8801  a placebo.

The participants, aged 45 and over, all had a body mass index of over 27 and had previously experienced a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack. Each was prescribed either a 2.5mg weekly dose of semaglutide or a placebo for an average of 40 months.

Of those in the placebo group, 8 per cent experienced a “primary cardiovascular end-point event” such as a heart attack. In the semaglutide group, however, only 6.5 per cent experienced such an event. Across such a large sample size, that’s a significant difference.

What happens next?

As with all medical breakthroughs, the road from research publication to pharmacy is necessarily a long one. Potential side-effects must be assessed, and further studies completed, after which approval for use must be obtained. While semaglutide has already been approved for diabetes treatment, it would need separate TGA approval for cardiovascular therapy.

Further complicating matters, at least in the short term, is a worldwide shortage of the drug. The TGA has announced advice from Ozempic distributor Novo Nordisk that supply in 2024 will continue to be limited.

Notwithstanding those short-term constraints, it does appear that semaglutide’s range of health benefits is expanding. At some point in the not-too-distant future, it may be able to stake a legitimate claim as a ‘wonder drug’.

Have you been prescribed semaglutide (Ozempic or Wegovy)? Did you find it to be a successful treatment for diabetes or weight issues? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Link between depression and heart disease could mean new treatments

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I have used Ozempic before Covid and it works in reducing weight, unfortunately when there was a shortage, the weight comes back on plus some more. During the study that was mentioned, the cardiologist specifically said that the participants that wanted to come off Ozempic had to do so very slowly to readjust the body so weight gain might not be an issue. This drug has many uses, also PCOS suffers need it plus pre diabetic people, but it is still only registered for diabetes, so you cannot claim any private script money back on your health insurance.

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