Ozempic: What we know about the weight loss drug Ozempic...

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Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 18:19:15 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 18:19:15

This, Professor Deanfield said, suggests the drug "has other actions which lower cardiovascular risk beyond reducing unhealthy body fat". Ozempic, wegovy, Semaglutide

Weight loss jabs including Ozempic could reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes among obese by a fifth, regardless of how much weight they lose, a new study has shown.

The five-year study explored whether the medication – sold under the brand names Wegovy, Ozempic and Rybelsus – could reduce the risk of heart attacks or stroke in obese without diabetes.

After 20 weeks of being on semaglutide, 62% of patients had lost more than 5% of their body weight compared with 10% in the placebo group.

However, the risk reduction of heart attacks, stroke or heart failure was similar in patients who lost more than 5% of their body weight and in those who lost less than 5%, or gained weight.

This, Professor Deanfield said, suggests the drug "has other actions which lower cardiovascular risk beyond reducing unhealthy body fat".

It isn't the first time Ozempic has made it into the news, with a number of celebrities swearing by the drug. But how safe is it, and how much do we know it? Here, Yahoo News explains.

Semaglutide, the drug contained in Ozempic jabs, was first developed in 2012 and first approved for use in 2017 in the US and 2019 in the UK.

It is used as a type 2 diabetes treatment – prescribed to manage blood glucose levels. Diabetes patients who use the drug have reported losing weight.

This is partly due to reduced appetite and slowing down the movement of food in the gut, meaning users stay full for longer, Diabetes UK says.

This side-effect has become a selling point of its own, causing the drug to become viral among social media influencers and celebrities. In 2023, Harvard Health Medical School warned there was a shortage of the drug in the US because "too many without diabetes are taking it".

Due to a growing shortage in Britain, the UK government banned the use of Ozempic for weight loss in July 2023. However, semaglutide, the same drug, was approved for weight loss under the brand name "Wegovy".

It is manufactured by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, which also makes Ozempic. The UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved semaglutide for both weight loss and diabetes treatment, meaning it is considered safe, but, like every medication, is not without its risks.

According to NICE, common side effects include diarrhoea, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, vomiting, alopecia, diabetic retinopathy (in patients with type 2 diabetes), dizziness and headaches.

Rare side effects include angioedema (where part of the body suddenly becomes swollen) and acute pancreatitis. Data from the US Food and Drug Administration has also linked the drug to gallbladder disease.

The longer-term effects of Ozempic are still unknown, as it hasn't been around for long enough.

Concerns have also been raised over the risk of semaglutide causing thyroid cancer, but the research on this is unclear.

Ozempic warns of "possible thyroid tumours, including cancer" on its website, but despite the disclaimer, it goes on to say: "It is not known if Ozempic® will cause thyroid tumours or a type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) in ".

A French study compared who did and didn't take semaglutide and found higher rates of thyroid cancer among those who did, particularly after one to three years.

However, another study carried out in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, published in the British Medical Journal, found no significant increase in risk – meaning the picture is very mixed.

On the latest trial looking at reduced risk of heart failure, CEO of medical non-profit Protas, Professor Sir Martin Landray says the study "opens up the question" over whether the drug can be used for preventative purposes - potentially "reducing the risk of not just cardiovascular events but many other diseases in who are overweight or obese".

It's worth bearing in mind that the trial was run by Novo Nordisk, and that its findings are still yet to be peer reviewed.

It is also not clear when the global shortage in semaglutide products, including Ozempic, will end.

There are still "intermittent supply and shortages of some GLP-1 analogues including Ozempic", Diabetes UK says, some of which are expected to run into 2025, but there is now "good supply of Rybelsus (oral semaglutide) and Mounjaro (tirzepatide)".

In January 2024 the news agency reported that three who'd sought medical treatment for dangerously low blood sugar in the US had taken what was suspected to be fake versions of Ozempic.

Austrian and Lebanese health authorities last year reported that several had suffered bouts of hypoglycaemia after taking suspected fake Ozempic, some of whom were hospitalised.

The UK issued a similar warning in October 2023, with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reporting a "very small number of who have been hospitalised after using potentially fake pens".