A selection of injector pens for the Wegovy weight loss drug are shown in this photo illustration in Chicago, Illinois, March 31, 2023.
Jim Vondruska | Reuters
Wegovy, the popular weight loss drug from Novo Nordisk, significantly reduced symptoms of a common type of heart failure in patients with obesity, according to a late-stage clinical trial released Friday.
Wegovy helped alleviate symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling in the legs and irregular heart beat. It also resulted in lower blood pressure and reductions in inflammation – two important markers of heart health.
The results add to Wegovy’s growing list of potential health benefits beyond shedding unwanted pounds. That could potentially lead to expanded use of the drug and increased coverage by insurers. The results also complement the groundbreaking trial data Novo Nordisk released earlier this month, which found that Wegovy slashed the risk of serious heart-related problems by 20%.
“We look forward to working closely with the clinical community and regulators to help realise this potential over the coming months,” Martin Lange, Novo Nordisk’s head of development, said in a release. He was referring to the heart health benefits observed in both trials.
The new study on 529 obese patients focused on a heart condition known as preserved ejection fraction, or HFpEF – a condition that comprises roughly half of all heart failure cases in the U.S. and occurs when the heart’s lower chamber pumps less blood than the body needs.
An estimated 2.5 million people in the U.S. have that condition and more than 80% of those patients also have obesity.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that Wegovy led to a nearly 17-point improvement on a 100-point scale that’s used to assess symptoms of HFpEF.
By comparison, patients who received a placebo had a 9-point improvement.
Wegovy also led to improvements in physical limitations: Patients who took the drug were able to walk further in six minutes than those in the placebo group.
Those on Wegovy also lost about 13% of their body weight, compared with 2.6% for those on a placebo, over the course of the year-long trial.
There were fewer serious safety events in patients who took Wegovy compared with those who took the placebo. But more patients stopped taking Wegovy because of gastrointestinal issues, which are commonly observed with other weight loss drugs.
One limitation of the trial was its lack of diversity: 96% of the participants were white.
Wegovy and Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Ozempic sparked a weight loss industry gold rush last year for helping patients lose unwanted weight. They are part of a class of drugs called GLP-1 agonists, which mimic a hormone produced in the gut to suppress a person’s appetite.
But Novo Nordisk is grappling with supply constraints that have led to shortages of both drugs.
There are also recent reports of patients who had suicidal and self-harm thoughts after taking Wegovy and other weight loss drugs, which raised questions about the unintended and potentially life-threatening side effects of the treatments