SEMAGLUTIDE Reduces Heart Attack, Stroke and Cardiac Deaths
A study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, has found that the weight loss drug Wegovy reduced the risk of cardiac death by 20%. Wegovy contains Semaglutide the peptide that is also found in the diabetes medication Ozempic. Both are being widely used now because of their ability to help people lose weight. Although the results of this study are very significant, they actually aren’t a great surprise. Research has shown for years that obesity increases one’s risk of heart disease. But the study is of great significance because it is the first firm evidence of this heart saving benefit for people using Semaglutide. Research along these lines is also continuing for the related peptide –Tirzepatide-the diabetes drug name Mounjaro, which people are also using to lose weight. It would not be surprising if they can prove Mounjaro has the same heart disease preventive benefit, because the two peptide combination in Mounjaro (Tirzepatide) seems to be quite similar to Semaglutide in its effects on the body.
UCHealth expert Dr. Cecilia Low Wang, chairs the committee that advises the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on drugs related to Endocrinology and Metabolism. She states related to this research study, “Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S., and if we can prevent adverse cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes, and help people lead, longer healthier lives that’s a major finding”. The importance of this study and its validity is bolstered by the fact that it was a very large study, with over 17,600 people and they were followed for approximately 3 years to observe the outcomes.
What is also important about this peptide study showing reductions the risk of these potentially fatal medical events, is that it can have a great impact on those who have already suffered a heart attack or a stroke. That’s because these people have a high risk of having another heart attack or stroke which could be fatal. So these medication may be literally life saving for them. When physicians treat people with these major risk factors they encourage them to engage in any number of health promoting lifestyle changes such as eating heart healthy, stress reduction, taking care of their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But as Dr Wang explains in relation to this study of the drug Wegovy, “there are a number of agents that we know can reduce your risk, but to have a drug that is being used for weight management give you another 20% reduction in risk is big news”.
These medications are used as a once per week self administered injection. The self administered shot is called a subcutaneous injection, which means that the medication is placed by a superficial needle stick placed right under the skin. It is very easily taught to patients in their doctor’ office. And it is minimally, if at all, painful. The drug works to reduce hunger in a couple of ways. It has the action of slowing gastric emptying . Gastric refers to the stomach. The practical effect is that it takes longer for food ingested into the stomach to pass out of the stomach and on into the intestines. As a result of it taking longer to do this, the patient experiences a fullness, and they just don’t feel like eating as much. It also works in a second way to reduce hunger by acting on the appetite center in the brain. Normally when you ingest a food that pleases you, one that you might crave, it produces a brain chemical called dopamine. By enhancing your dopamine you feel good and want to eat more to experience that pleasurable feeling again. The medication works against this. Finally there is a metabolic factor involved in semaglutide’s action, so that there is a more efficient burning of fat when you are on a diet with these medications than being on a diet weight loss plan without them. It is important to note that these medications will work to make a beneficial diet change more effective for weight loss, but they are not miracle drugs than can force a patient to lose weight regardless of what the patient does. The greatest success will undoubtedly occur when someone uses the medications as a tool to allow them to more successfully change their diet, than they can do on their own without the medication. But a person who does not make the effort to eat the type of diet that promotes weight loss, should not expect significant weight loss to occur.
WHAT ABOUT INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR THESE MEDICATIONS ?
Many insurance companies and employee health plans do not cover weight loss medications. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover them. This is because of their expense, and the total cost that would be involved if they became widely used by the general population. However, as evidence is developed that cardiac problems are lessened by the use of these drugs, there might be a cost savings that could occur due to people not needing to be treated for cardiac events that never occurred as a result of using these medications. So insurers and the government might become persuaded that paying for these medications will save them money in the long run. If more people have access to these medications which they could not afford without insurance coverage, insurers may decide that it pays for them to cover these medications for those who have their insurance plans.
Is This Drug Study Biased because the Drug Company Stands to Make A lot of Money From Sales of the Medication?
Although it is true that the Drug manufacturer Novo Nordisk funded and ran this study, the design of the study minimizes any bias in the findings. As Dr Wang explains, “This was a double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial, so people received the medication or the placebo , and neither the researchers not the patients in the trial knew whether people were getting the study medication or the placebo.” Only at the end, after the study has been completed, does everyone find out who has been given the medication and who received just a placebo.
Also, bolstering its scientific validity is the fact that it was a large international study that involved researches from 41 countries and involved many thousands of study participants.