Weight loss drug Wegovy helps people with common type of heart failure, trial finds


The popular diabetes and weight loss drug semaglutide significantly reduced symptoms of a common type of heart failure and led to a greater degree of weight loss among people with obesity, according to clinical trial results reported Friday.

The study of 529 patients, funded by drugmaker Novo Nordisk, found that patients who were given a weekly dose of 2.4 milligrams of semaglutide for a year showed improvements in symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling — all symptoms of a condition known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

Patients also experienced improved exercise function, as measured by changes in the distances they could walk in six minutes. By the end of the trial, the drug helped participants walk 20 meters farther than people who got a placebo.

They also lost an average of 13 percent of their body fat, compared with 2.6 percent for those on placebo, according to the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

“Today’s news heralds a possible fundamental paradigm shift in how cardiologists approach HFpEF in people with obesity. It’s gratifying to be able to share important evidence that has a potential to change the future clinical management of this vulnerable patient population,” Mikhail Kosiborod, a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo., who led the study, said in a statement. 

The results come just weeks after Novo Nordisk announced another trial of semaglutide, sold as Wegovy, showed the drug cut the risk of serious heart problems. The new data add to the growing evidence that obesity drugs can do more than just help with weight loss. 

HFpEF is estimated to account for more than half of all cases of heart failure in the United States and is increasing in prevalence. Most people with HFpEF also suffer from other conditions like diabetes and obesity, which is linked to a higher mortality rate, high risk of hospitalization, high burden of debilitating symptoms, and poor quality of life.

Worldwide, 64 million people live with heart failure, meaning the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, Novo Nordisk said. HFpEF occurs when the heart pumps normally but is too stiff to fill properly.

Wegovy is a diabetes medication that was approved for weight loss in 2021, but its popularity exploded when videos of influencers taking it to lose weight went viral on TikTok. 

“To date, there has been a dearth of treatments that affect these important outcomes in patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, which highlights a major unmet need,” the researchers wrote. 

Novo Nordisk expects to file for approval of Wegovy’s label update in the U.S. and EU in the first half of 2024, pending positive outcomes of another ongoing trial of HFpEF and obesity in people with Type 2 diabetes.

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