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2024-01-17| R&D

Semaglutide-Based Medications, Ozempic and Wegovy, Show Lower Suicidal Ideation Risk

by Sinead Huang
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Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Novo Nordisk’s medications Ozempic and Wegovy, has been under scrutiny for potential links to suicidal thoughts. However, a large U.S. study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Nature, dispels concerns regarding an increased risk of suicidal ideation associated with these medications. The study, co-led by scientists from Case Western Reserve University and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, sheds light on the safety profile of semaglutide in treating type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Related article: Novo Nordisk Delivers Strong H1 Financial Performance, With Acquisition to Expand Weight Loss Market

Comprehensive Analysis of Suicidal Ideation Risk

Researchers conducted a comprehensive study examining electronic health records of 240,618 patients struggling with obesity or overweight and 1,589,855 patients with type 2 diabetes. The study period ranged from June 2021 to December 2022 for obesity and December 2017 to May 2021 for diabetes. Contrary to anecdotal reports and regulatory investigations, the study found no evidence of an elevated risk of suicidal thoughts in patients prescribed semaglutide. Instead, the analysis revealed a lower risk of new and recurrent suicidal thoughts in those using semaglutide compared to alternative treatments.

For Wegovy, prescribed for obesity treatment, the study found a 73% lower risk of first-time suicidal thoughts during the initial six months of use compared to other weight-loss medications. Additionally, no suicide attempts were reported in the Wegovy group, whereas users of alternative drugs had 14 reported attempts. Similarly, patients with a history of suicidal ideation using Wegovy showed a 56% lower risk of recurrent thoughts compared to other weight-loss medicines. The study noted similar patterns for Ozempic in comparison to other diabetes drugs.

Implications and Future Considerations

While this retrospective observational study cannot definitively prove that GLP-1 agonists do not increase the risk of suicidal ideation, its findings provide substantial reassurance. The study’s co-author, Pamela Davis of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, emphasizes the importance of understanding the potential complications of semaglutide, considering its widespread use. The research contributes crucial insights into the safety of these medications, addressing concerns and supporting their continued use in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

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