Can Wegovy save lives? Study reveals weight-loss drug reduces heart attack and stroke risks

As there appear to be more benefits to weight loss and diabetes management drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic, will insurers and employers start taking them more seriously?

Wegovy, a drug prescribed to combat obesity, reportedly has another proven benefit. The weight loss drug may be a literal lifesaver.

Novo Nordisk, which manufactures Wegovy, announced Tuesday in a release that after running a “major” clinical trial, it discovered the drug reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke, or heart disease-related death by 20%. According to CNN, this was the first clinical trial to show that a weight loss drug alone could have such an impact. 

Wegovy, Wegovy reduces heart attack and strokes, weight loss drugs, obesity drugs, Black heart disease rates,
The weight loss drug Wegovy from the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk was shown in a clinical trial to reduce stroke and heart attack risk, the company says. (Photo by Steffen Trumpf/picture alliance via Getty Images)

According to the release, the Denmark-based drug manufacturer studied Wegovy against a placebo along with the standard of care for the prevention of “major adverse cardiac events.” The “Select” trial, as it was dubbed, consisted of 17,604 adults who did not have diabetes but had heart disease and obesity, or were overweight. 

“People living with obesity have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but to date, there are no approved weight management medications proven to deliver effective weight management while also reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death. Therefore, we are very excited about the results from SELECT,” Martin Holst Lange, executive vice president for development at Novo Nordisk, said in the release. 

Lange added that the study was “a landmark trial that has demonstrated that semaglutide 2.4 mg has the potential to change how obesity is regarded and treated.”

Changing the way obesity is regarded and treated is something physicians have been urging insurers and the larger medical community to do, especially as so many patients are being denied these effective yet costly drugs that can cost over $1,200 per month out of pocket. 

While heart disease is the leading cause of death for American adults, 47% of Black American adults are living with cardiovascular disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 49.9% of Black adults have obesity. Accordingly, drugs like Wegovy could be life-changing and life-saving for many. However, insurance companies and employers often fail to approve the medication. Decades of misunderstanding obesity and the recent attention brought to obesity and diabetes drugs like Ozempic by Hollywood have not helped convince the larger medical community of their value. 

Whether this new benefit will increase Wegovy’s approval remains to be seen. 

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