Results are in from Wegovy's longest trial yet: 2 new findings

On average, people taking Novo Nordisk's weight loss drug Wegovy see a 10% reduction in weight, which is sustained for four years, according to findings from a major trial published May 13. 

Sustained weight loss 

Findings from an earlier trial showed that people taking semaglutide — the active ingredient in Wegovy — experienced an average weight loss of 10%, compared to 1.5% who took a placebo. Weight loss typically plateaued after about 65 weeks. In the latest analyses, researchers found the 10% average weight loss was sustained for up to 208 weeks, or four years, while people continued to take the medication. 

About 97% of patients remained in the Select trial until it ended, likely because they were able to remain on a lower dose or pause treatment if they were experiencing side effects. In previous studies of Wegovy, researchers had less leeway around when patients could remain in the study. 

"It was much more like what happens in the real world," Donna Ryan, MD, professor emeritus at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and who led the trial, told Bloomberg

Reduced risk of cardiovascular events, irrespective of weight loss 

Wegovy is tied to a 20% reduced risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events — a benefit that was seen across the board, irrespective of how much weight people lost. 

Around 62% of patients taking Wegovy lost at least 5% of their initial weight by week 20 of the study. Their heart outcomes were similar to those of patients who lost a smaller percentage, researchers told Bloomberg

The analysis suggests the heart benefits aren't driven by weight loss alone. Researchers suspect reduced inflammation is at play.

Experts who were not involved in the analyses say the new findings could drive wider prescribing of the drug, and add further incentives for insurers to reimburse for it. 

"We probably really need to rethink these criteria for reimbursing the medicines, because they are going to be helpful in terms of actually improving health and saving lives and saving healthcare dollars in people with obesity and heart disease even without much weight loss,"  Daniel Drucker, a GLP-1 researcher at the University of Toronto and who was not involved in the new analyses, told CNN. "You don’t even need to lose weight to have a reduction in heart attack, strokes and death."

In March, the FDA approved Wegovy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack and stroke in adults who have cardiovascular disease and are either obese or overweight. 

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