Obesity drug cuts risk of serious heart problems

THE popular weight-loss drug Wegovy reduced the risk of serious heart problems by 20 percent in a large, international study that experts say could change the way doctors treat certain heart patients.

The research is the first to document that an obesity medication can not only pare pounds but also safely prevent a heart attack, stroke or a heart-related death in people who already have heart disease — but not diabetes.

The findings could shift perceptions that the new class of obesity drugs are cosmetic treatments and put pressure on health insurers to cover them.

“It moves from a kind of therapy that reduces body weight to a therapy that reduces cardiovascular events,” said Dr. Michael Lincoff, the study’s lead author and a heart expert at the Cleveland Clinic.

Wegovy is a high-dose version of the diabetes treatment Ozempic, which already has been shown to reduce the risk of serious heart problems in people who have diabetes. The new study looked to see if the same was true in those who don’t have that disease.

Experts have known for years that losing weight can improve heart health, but there hasn’t been a safe and effective obesity medication proven to reduce specific risks, said Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a heart expert at the Mayo Clinic. He expects the new findings to change treatment guidelines and “dominate the conversation” for years to come.

“This is the population who needs the medicine the most,” said Lopez-Jimenez, who had no role in the study.

In the U.S., there are about 6.6 million people like those tested in the study, experts said. The results were published Saturday in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at a medical conference in Philadelphia.


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