‘Game-changing’ Ozempic slashes heart attack and stroke risk, major study finds

Kate Pickles
Daily Mail
4 Min Read
A major study has found Ozempic slashes heart attack and stroke risk
A major study has found Ozempic slashes heart attack and stroke risk Credit: Adobe Stock/Wild Awake - stock.adobe.com

Millions of people should be prescribed weight-loss jabs to slash their chances of heart attack and stroke, cardiologists say.

The biggest study yet on Ozempic and Wegovy found their key ingredient was a “game-changer” for heart patients, including those who did not lose weight.

It found the weekly shot cut by a fifth their risk of further heart attacks or death. Britain’s top cardiologist said it was the most significant development in heart disease since statins in the 1990s and would “change clinical practice”.

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John Deanfield of University College London said the study proved semaglutide was more than an obesity drug because it “targets the underlying biology of chronic diseases”.

The findings suggest it could be used to treat everything from cancer to kidney disease.

Professor Deanfield told the European Congress on Obesity in Venice: “In the 90s when statins came in, we finally figured out that there was a class of drugs that would change the biology of this disease.

That was a major breakthrough to transform cardiology practice.

We now have a class of drugs that could equally transform many chronic diseases of ageing. “We’re starting to see with this class of drugs that cardiovascular diseases – maybe other diseases we’re going to hear about in the next few months – get better with this drug. There will be a lot of people who will benefit.”

The discovery is set to transform how the NHS treats heart disease with the new class of drugs – known as GLP-1 agonists – likely to be prescribed by the end of the decade.

Experts said they could be dished out to patients in the same way statins or blood pressure pills are given now. Around eight million Britons have heart disease, which the British Heart Foundation estimates costs the economy £25billion (AUD$47b) a year.

The landmark SELECT trial involved 17,604 adults diagnosed with heart problems who were overweight or obese from 41 countries, who took semaglutide medication over three years.

Given once weekly at the same dose as Wegovy, the jab was found to have the same heart health benefits to patients, regardless of their weight.

The group who took it, rather than a placebo, had a 20 per cent lower risk of heart attack, stroke or death from heart disease, and typically lost around 10 per cent of their body weight.

This effect was seen regardless of weight loss, suggesting the drugs target an underlying biological mechanism such as inflammation, which is linked to chronic diseases including cancer.

Doctors believe this could be due to mechanisms such as improvements to blood sugar, blood pressure or inflammation, as well as direct effects on the heart muscle and blood vessels.

Professor Deanfield, who is the Government’s champion for personalised prevention, said he would be recommending it to ministers, adding that its use would have to be approved by regulators.

About half of his heart disease patients have a body mass index above 27, putting them in the overweight category, and would benefit from semaglutide, he said.

Semaglutide could be prescribed as an additional treatment for heart problems alongside statins and blood pressure medication, with almost all of those in the trial already taking statins.

The professor added: “There’s much less resistance, I would argue, to these drugs than there is to still taking statins. This is a real change in the way we help with a range of diseases, chronic diseases, which currently the NHS doesn’t treat very well.

“This fantastic trial really is a game-changer.”

Manufactured by Novo Nordisk, semaglutide is the first in a new generation of antiobesity drugs which work to suppress appetite by mimicking the hormone GLP-1.

Known as Ozempic, it was initially used to treat type 2 diabetes before being repurposed as the weight loss drug, Wegovy, which is given at a higher dose.

Leading scientists believe the benefits of the drug extend beyond weight loss, with trials ongoing into illnesses including Parkinson’s and kidney disease.

Heart disease is one of the UK’s biggest killers, causing 68,000 deaths and more than 250,000 hospital admissions each year.

Professor Jason Halford, president of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, says the new research highlights how GLP-1 drugs will transform medical treatment over the next decade.

He added: “In the next ten years we’ll see a radical change in the approach to healthcare.”

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