GLP-1 Agonists: A Potential Game-Changer in Heart Disease Treatment?

Wegovy, initially approved for weight loss and sharing the same active ingredient (semaglutide) as the diabetes medication Ozempic, has received approval for treating heart disease by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This decision comes after the release of new clinical evidence showcasing the effectiveness of semaglutide in reducing cardiovascular events among non-diabetic individuals.

The new study   

A recent study titled ‘Semaglutide in Patients with Obesity-Related Heart Failure and Type 2 Diabetes’, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, revealed a remarkable 20% reduction in heart attacks, stroke, and death among overweight or obese adults over 45. The trial is called Semaglutide Effects on Cardiovascular Outcomes in People With Overweight or Obesity (SELECT). 

In a statement to The Australian, Professor Jason Kovacic, a renowned cardiologist and CEO of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, expressed optimism about the potential of drugs like Ozempic in managing heart disease. He believes that once these medications become more affordable and widely accessible, their use could become as routine as taking a statin.

Other experts also emphasised the significance of semaglutide in preventing secondary heart events, particularly among overweight or obese patients with a history of heart disease, although primary prevention remains uncertain.

Semaglutide gained attention in 2017 when Ozempic received FDA approval for lowering blood sugar in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Subsequently, its label expanded to include reducing the risk of major heart events in the same group. In 2021, Wegovy received FDA approval to aid weight loss in individuals with obesity or overweight. Both Ozempic and Wegovy contain the same molecule, semaglutide, and are manufactured by Novo Nordisk.

And now, the SELECT clinical trial has demonstrated that Wegovy significantly reduces the risk of major heart events in individuals with excess weight and cardiovascular conditions who do not have diabetes. 

The medication is approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in Australia. The question now arises: will the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) follow suit? Only time will tell.

More on the SELECT trial

The SELECT trial, involving 17,604 adults aged 45 and older being overweight or with obesity and a cardiovascular condition but no history of diabetes, tracked participants who received either 2.4mg of semaglutide (Wegovy) weekly or a placebo for an average of about three years.

In addition to experiencing a 20% lower risk overall of major cardiac events, such as heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death, individuals who took Wegovy saw a 28% reduction in heart attacks (for those already using heart medications like statins to reduce cholesterol), a 7% decrease in non-fatal strokes, and a 15% drop in cardiovascular-related deaths.

A notable finding beyond heart-related issues: Among those on Wegovy, there was a 19% lower death rate from any cause.

Currently, the exact mechanism through which semaglutide prevents secondary cardiovascular events is not fully understood, and researchers are exploring whether additional factors contribute besides weight reduction. 

Additionally, the SELECT study did not determine whether semaglutide can reduce cardiovascular risk associated with overweight and obesity in individuals without an existing cardiovascular condition. Future studies may reveal that individuals with obesity, even in the absence of heart disease, experience meaningful reductions in their risk for major cardiovascular disease.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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