This Ozempic Study Went So Well That It Was Stopped Early

Research finds semaglutide can cut risk of serious illness, death in those with diabetes, kidney disease
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2024 2:43 PM CDT
This Ozempic Study Went So Well That It Was Stopped Early
The injectable drug Ozempic is shown July 1, 2023, in Houston.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Semaglutide, the medication found in such brands as Ozempic and Wegovy, has become the drug of choice lately for weight loss. A new study, however, suggests it can also bring other significant benefits to users, including slashing the risk of serious kidney complications, heart problems, and even death in patients with chronic kidney disease (which has no cure) and Type 2 diabetes, reports the New York Times. In research published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine and also presented at a gathering of the European Renal Association in Stockholm, half of more than 3,500 subjects from nearly 30 countries with kidney disease and Type 2 diabetes were given a weekly 1mg semaglutide injection, while the other half got a placebo.

The researchers followed up with the subjects after an average of 3.4 years and found that the patients who'd taken the semaglutide were 24% less likely than the placebo patients to have experienced a major event caused by kidney disease, such as needing dialysis or a transplant. The semaglutide patients also saw slowed-down rates of kidney deterioration and were also less likely to suffer not only cardiovascular-related fatalities, but fatalities overall. Although scientists aren't sure how the semaglutide helps, they speculate that it may cut down on inflammation, which can make kidney disease worse. The study proved so heartening that Novo Nordisk, the Ozempic/Wegovy maker funding the research, ended the clinical trial early, notes the Times.

Caveats: Most of the study's participants were white men, while kidney disease disproportionately affects Black and Indigenous patients. More than 1 in 7 Americans have chronic kidney disease. CNN notes 1 in 3 people with diabetes also have kidney disease, per the CDC. Heart issues, meanwhile, enter the picture because when one's kidneys don't function well, waste and fluid can increase in the blood, worsening high blood pressure and upping the risk of stroke and heart disease, one doctor tells the Times.

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High blood sugar in diabetics can also strain the heart. Novo Nordisk now wants to ask the FDA to add a note on Ozempic labels that indicates the drug can be used to possibly slow the advancement of chronic kidney disease or cut down on diabetes complications. "Those of us who really care about kidney patients spent our whole careers wanting something better," the University of Washington's Dr. Katherine Tuttle, a study co-author, tells the Times. "This is as good as it gets." (More Ozempic stories.)

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