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Wegovy Dramatically Reduces Heart Disease and Stroke Risk in People With Obesity

Published: 8/8/23 3:19 pm
By April Hopcroft

A Wegovy injection penExcess weight raises your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, and stroke. A recent study shows the weight loss drug Wegovy can significantly reduce weight, plus lower the chance of cardiovascular events by 20%.

Novo Nordisk announced exciting preliminary results from a study investigating the impact of Wegovy (semaglutide) on heart disease and stroke in people with obesity. 

The SELECT clinical trial included over 17,600 adults aged 45 years and older with overweight or obesity and a prior history of heart disease and who did not have diabetes. It’s the first study of its kind to show the heart health benefits of Wegovy for people with obesity or overweight without diabetes. 

After five years, participants taking 2.4 mg of semaglutide saw a 20% reduction in heart attacks, stroke, and heart-related deaths. These impressive cardiovascular benefits occurred regardless of adherence  how consistently participants took Wegovy. 

Wegovy was well-tolerated and side effects results were similar to those reported in previous trials of the drug. Similar to other GLP-1 medications, nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal issues are the most common side effects of Wegovy.

What does this mean for people with overweight or obesity? 

These research findings suggest that Wegovy has the potential to transform care for people with overweight and obesity who also have heart disease. In addition to being effective for weight loss, Wegovy may also prevent cardiovascular problems, which are common among those living with conditions like obesity and diabetes. 

“It is already clear that SELECT is going to be a landmark trial. A 20% reduction in major adverse cardiovascular events is a large, clinically meaningful benefit,” said Dr. Mikhail Kosiborod, director of Cardiometabolic Research in Saint Luke’s Michael and Marlys Haverty Cardiometabolic Center of Excellence. 

“Together with other data emerging in cardiometabolic space, this will change the conversation about the role of obesity in individuals with cardiovascular disease – from a ‘comorbidity’ to a root cause and an intervention target,” he said.

SELECT is especially impressive compared to the Look AHEAD trial, which studied the impacts of intensive lifestyle changes on weight loss and heart health. After nearly 10 years, Look AHEAD was stopped due to the lack of heart benefit. Meanwhile, SELECT demonstrated the benefit of this weight loss medication on heart disease in people with obesity or overweight without diabetes. This finding suggests a new path forward for obesity management and the prevention of heart complications. 

SELECT trial adds to previous evidence for Wegovy

Wegovy is a GLP-1 agonist, which works by mimicking hormones that the body naturally produces to stimulate the release of insulin after a meal.

The SELECT findings are the latest in a series of victories for Wegovy and other versions of semaglutide. Previously, similar results of heart benefit were seen for the injectable version of semaglutide in people with type 2 diabetes

Combined results from the SUSTAIN 6 and PIONEER 6 trials showed a 24% reduction in heart attack, stroke, and heart-related deaths. Ozempic previously received FDA approval for cardiovascular health in people with type 2 diabetes. The success of the SELECT trial may lead to a similar approval for Wegovy in people with obesity or overweight. 

At ADA 2023, results from the PIONEER PLUS and OASIS trials showed that an oral version of semaglutide is effective for treating type 2 diabetes and overweight or obesity at high doses.  

What’s the next step for Wegovy and heart health? 

Based on the recent study findings, Novo Nordisk plans to pursue an expansion of approved uses for Wegovy. More results from the SELECT trial will be presented at a conference later this year. 

If this indication is approved, Wegvoy will be the first medication to reduce heart disease and stroke in people with overweight or obesity without diabetes. 

Additional heart health resources: 

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About the authors

April Hopcroft joined diaTribe in 2023 as a Staff Writer after co-leading the Diabetes Therapy team at Close Concerns. She graduated from Smith College in 2021, where she majored in... Read the full bio »