Wegovy, a new drug for obesity, has been shown to reduce the risk of serious heart problems by 20% in a large international study. The drug, which is a weekly injection of a hormone called semaglutide, also helps people lose an average of 15% of their body weight in a year.
Wegovy works by mimicking a natural hormone called GLP-1, which regulates appetite and blood sugar levels. By stimulating the production of insulin and slowing down the emptying of the stomach, Wegovy makes people feel fuller and eat less. This leads to significant weight loss and lower blood sugar levels, which are beneficial for heart health.
What are the benefits of Wegovy?
Wegovy has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, or 27 or higher with a weight-related health condition. Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide.
According to the results of the SELECT trial, which involved more than 17,000 overweight or obese people aged 45 and older, Wegovy reduced the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, stroke, or heart-related death, by 20% compared to a placebo. The trial also found that Wegovy lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation levels, which are all linked to heart disease.
The SELECT trial is the first to demonstrate that a weight-loss drug has medical benefits beyond weight reduction. The trial also included people who did not have diabetes, unlike previous studies of similar drugs. This suggests that Wegovy could be used to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, which is another common complication of obesity.
What are the side effects of Wegovy?
Wegovy is generally well tolerated, but it may cause some side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, headache, fatigue, and injection site reactions. These side effects are usually mild and tend to improve over time as the body adjusts to the drug.
However, Wegovy may also increase the risk of severe stomach problems, such as pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, and gastrointestinal bleeding, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study analyzed data from more than 200,000 people who took GLP-1 receptor agonists, a class of drugs that includes Wegovy and Ozempic, another diabetes drug that uses semaglutide in a smaller dose. The study found that these drugs were associated with a 75% higher risk of hospitalization for acute pancreatitis, a 79% higher risk of hospitalization for gallbladder disease, and a 27% higher risk of hospitalization for gastrointestinal bleeding, compared to other diabetes drugs.
Therefore, Wegovy should be used with caution and under the supervision of a doctor, especially for people who have a history of stomach problems or who take other medications that may affect the digestive system. Wegovy should also be discontinued if any signs of pancreatitis, such as severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or fever, occur.
How can I get Wegovy?
Wegovy is a prescription-only drug that requires a doctor’s evaluation and approval. The drug is administered as a weekly injection under the skin, using a prefilled pen device. The dose of Wegovy is gradually increased over the first 20 weeks, starting from 0.25 mg per week and reaching up to 2.4 mg per week. The drug is intended to be used as a long-term treatment, along with a healthy diet and exercise program.
Wegovy is not covered by most insurance plans, and it is quite expensive, costing about $1,300 per month. However, the manufacturer of Wegovy, Novo Nordisk, offers a savings card program that can reduce the out-of-pocket cost to as low as $25 per month for eligible patients. The company also provides a patient support program that offers education, coaching, and resources for people who use Wegovy.
However, due to the high demand and limited supply of Wegovy, the company has imposed restrictions on the availability of the drug, especially the starter doses. The company expects the restrictions to last until 2024, and it advises patients who are not already taking Wegovy to wait until then to start the treatment. The company also says it is working to increase the production and distribution of Wegovy, as well as to seek expanded FDA approval for the drug as a treatment for cardiovascular disease risk.