Obesity drug Wegovy cut the risk of serious heart problems by 20 percent, the manufacturer announced Tuesday, results that could add significant pressure for insurers to cover the increasingly popular drug.
The landmark trial of about 17,600 adults with obesity and established cardiovascular disease was the first to show that obesity drugs can also target cardiovascular health, rather than just help with weight loss.
Manufacturer Novo Nordisk announced only the top-line results in a press release. The detailed results from the SELECT trial will be presented at a scientific conference later this year, the company said.
Still, the results could be crucial for the company and other manufacturers of drugs in the same class. Wegovy is a diabetes medication that was approved for weight loss in 2021, but its popularity exploded when videos of celebrities and influencers taking it to lose weight went viral on TikTok.
Private insurers and Medicare have been unwilling to cover Wegovy and its sister medication Ozempic, as they are viewed as lifestyle or cosmetic medicine and not essential. Ozempic is only approved as a diabetes treatment, though it’s prescribed off-label as an anti-obesity drug. Both drugs have the same key ingredient: semaglutide.
But the trial results indicate obesity treatments can also improve health, which would make it hard to deny coverage. The list price for Wegovy is about $1,400, which puts it out of reach for many patients.
“SELECT is a landmark trial and has demonstrated that semaglutide 2.4 mg has the potential to change how obesity is regarded and treated,” Martin Holst Lange, executive vice president for development at Novo Nordisk, said in a statement.
The trial was initiated in 2018, but the company did not say in the press release how much weight patients in the trial lost or whether weight loss was maintained over the five years. It’s also unclear if the heart benefits were a result of the weight loss or from something else.
Novo Nordisk said the drug appeared to be safe and well tolerated, in line with what has been seen in previous clinical trials.
The company said it expects to file with the Food and Drug Administration to add cardiovascular benefits to the drug’s label later this year.
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