Wegovy approved for heart disease: What it means

The FDA has approved a new use for Wegovy, the popular weight-loss drug used in obesity treatment.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the weight-loss drug Wegovy to reduce heart disease risk, a major new development in the popular drug’s evolution.

The drug, which contains semaglutide, the same active ingredient in diabetes drug Ozempic, is the first to be approved to combat both obesity and heart disease. It will now be available to those who have previously had a heart attack or stroke.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.

“Heart attacks, specifically, are very common,” said Dr. Scott Hagan, a University of Washington School of Medicine assistant professor of general internal medicine. “There are about 800,000 heart attacks per year for Americans. And about a quarter of those are people who've had a heart attack before, so we know that one of the biggest risk factors for having a heart attack or stroke is that you've had one before.”

In a clinical trial of more than 17,000 adults, Wegovy maker Novo Nordisk found that the drug cut the risk of cardiovascular events by 20% compared to the placebo. All in the trial were overweight or obese and had a history of heart disease. 

 It is not clear if the drug helps prevent a person’s first heart attack or stroke.

Hagan said Wegovy might not be for everybody. For those who can, though, the drug is helpful because weight loss is key to reducing risks. The drug likely also has other impacts.

“The weight loss itself may be an explanation for the reduced heart events,” Hagan said. “We know that having an elevated BMI is a risk for having heart attacks or strokes, but there are other reasons that are associated probably with the weight loss, which are that people who take the medicine and have weight loss from it also have lower blood pressures as a result, and better cholesterol.”

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Tags:weight lossheart disease

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