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Long-Term Effects of Weight-Loss Drugs Revealed in Groundbreaking New Study

Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy and Ozempic, was studied over several years.

Critics of weight-loss drugs insist they're too good to be true. It's hard to fathom how a simple weekly injection could produce such dramatic results for people who have struggled with their weight for years. But skeptics may rethink their opinion of these treatments after reviewing the latest data. A new study is illustrating the long-term effects of semaglutide—the active ingredient in Novo Nordisk's weight-loss drug, Wegovy, as well as in the type 2 diabetes treatment, Ozempic. And the results were almost entirely positive.

RELATED: Women Report New Surprising Ozempic Side Effects: "Your Body Is Going to Change."

According to a May 13 press release, two analyses of the Select clinical trial—the largest and longest clinical trial of Wegovy in patients with obesity without diabetes—were presented at the European Congress on Obesity this week. (It's worth mentioning that the Select trial was funded by Novo Nordisk, with findings initially published in The New England Journal of Medicine [NEJM] last November.)

During the Select trial, patients took 2.4 milligrams of Wegovy weekly via an injection, losing weight for roughly 65 weeks before reaching a plateau. The first analysis presented this week revealed that patients on Wegovy maintained an average of 10 percent weight loss after four years. This was a significant increase from patients taking a placebo, who lost just 1.5 percent of their body weight over the same period of time.

Patients who sustained the weight loss during the four-year stretch were still taking Wegovy, the latest analysis notes. This is worth considering, as previous studies have shown that patients tend to regain weight after discontinuing these treatments.

"This is the longest study we've conducted so far of semaglutide for weight loss," Novo Nordisk head of development Martin Holst Lange, MD, PhD, said in an interview with Reuters. "We see that once the majority of the weight loss is accrued, you don't go back and start to increase in weight if you stay on the drug."

Wegovy produced greater weight-loss results in other trials, but those were focused specifically on weight-loss results. The Select trial, on the other hand, was aimed at evaluating whether Wegovy can prevent cardiac events.

RELATED: Doctor Says Ozempic Raises Certain Health Risks by Up to 900%.

In this trial, weight-loss results were different for different patients, with women losing more weight on average than men, and Asian patients losing less on average when compared with other races. Still, researchers note that "both sexes, all races, all body sizes and those from all geographic regions were able to achieve clinically meaningful weight loss."

Researchers didn't identify any new safety signals in the first analysis. However, those taking Wegovy were more likely to discontinue use due to gastrointestinal issues during the dose-escalation phase.

A second analysis of the Select trial focused on cardiovascular events. The initial Select trial data in Nov. 2023 showed that the 2.4 milligram dose of semaglutide slashed the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart-related death by 20 percent in patients who were overweight or obese. Interestingly, the more recent analysis found that Wegovy had cardiovascular benefits that didn't depend on starting weight or on the amount of weight lost.

This finding is significant because it suggests that people with "relatively mild levels of obesity" or those who lose smaller amounts of weight could still benefit from Wegovy, per the press release.

Overall, researchers say that the promising data and conclusions from the latest analyses suggest that Wegovy can help with weight management, ultimately providing aid for more chronic diseases beyond cardiovascular events.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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