Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk says the medicine could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But they’re also facing a lawsuit about severe side effects of its main ingredient.
The weight loss drug Wegovy could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease based on the results of a trial, the company behind the drug said in a press release.
Patients who were taking the drug were shown to be 20 per cent less likely to suffer from a heart attack or a stroke.
The main ingredient in the drug is semaglutide, which is also the main ingredient in the popular diabetes drug Ozempic produced by the same company.
Shares of Novo Nordisk soared to a record high after the company shared the results.
The study was conducted on more than 17,000 overweight or obese adults aged 45 and older. They received either the drug or a placebo over a period of five years.
"People living with obesity have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease but to date, there are no approved weight management medications proven to deliver effective weight management while also reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death,” said Martin Holst Lange, executive vice president for development at Novo Nordisk.
Simon Cork, doctor and lecturer in physiology at the Anglia Ruskin University in the UK noted that the results have yet to be confirmed by peer review.
But, he said, they demonstrated the need to offer patients suffering from obesity an effective and safe drug to prevent future disease.
The cost of adult obesity in the European Union was estimated to be around €70 billion per year in 2016, including lost productivity and healthcare costs.
Novo Nordisk reported in May a 39 per cent rise in net profit in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2022 generated by the sale of obesity treatments.
Concerns about severe side effects
But these obesity medicines are not without controversy.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced in July that it was reviewing data “on the risk of suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self-harm” associated with Ozempic, Wegovy, and another drug called Saxenda.
Novo Nordisk said the detailed results of the trial will be presented later in the year.
There is fierce competition for obesity treatments in the pharmaceutical industry as more than one billion people worldwide are obese.
But some people have reported severe side effects from the drugs, with one lawsuit against Novo Nordisk and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly claiming that the drugs can cause stomach paralysis.
“Morgan & Morgan is investigating reports that the manufacturer of drugs Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro, Rybelsus, and Saxenda did not adequately warn patients and doctors about the risk of gastrointestinal side effects,” the personal injury lawyers said.
Even the American Society of Anesthesiologists has suggested not taking the medication before surgery due to “anecdotal reports” that the drugs are “associated with an increased risk of regurgitation and aspiration of food into the airways and lungs during general anaesthesia and deep sedation”.