A recent study found that the weight loss medication Wegovy reduced the likelihood of experiencing severe heart issues by 20%.

A significant international study found that the commonly used medication Wegovy lowered the likelihood of severe heart issues by 20%, potentially altering the approach to treating specific heart conditions according to professionals.

This study is the initial evidence that a medication for obesity can not only reduce weight, but also effectively protect against heart attacks, strokes, and heart-related deaths in individuals with pre-existing heart disease – excluding those with diabetes.

The results may change the way people view obesity drugs as merely cosmetic solutions and potentially influence health insurance providers to include them in coverage.

Dr. Michael Lincoff, a heart specialist at the Cleveland Clinic and the lead author of the study, stated that the focus has shifted from weight reduction therapy to cardiovascular event reduction therapy.

The drug Wegovy is a stronger form of the medication Ozempic, used to treat diabetes. It has been proven to lower the chances of severe heart complications in individuals with diabetes. A recent study aimed to determine if it had the same effects on those without the condition.

Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a heart expert at the Mayo Clinic, states that although it has been established by experts that weight loss can have positive effects on heart health, there has not been a secure and efficient medication for obesity that has been proven to decrease certain risks. He anticipates that the recent discoveries will have a significant impact on treatment protocols and will remain a topic of discussion for years to come.

Lopez-Jimenez stated that this group of people requires the medication the most. He was not involved in the research.

Experts estimated that there are approximately 6.6 million individuals in the United States who share similar characteristics to those who were examined in the study.

The findings were released on Saturday in the New England Journal of Medicine and shared at a medical conference in Philadelphia. Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Wegovy and Ozempic, has requested that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration add the cardiovascular advantages to Wegovy’s packaging, similar to those seen on Ozempic’s.

The company-funded research involved over 17,500 individuals from 41 different countries. The participants were 45 years or older, had a body mass index of 27 or greater, and were monitored for an average of over three years. Along with their usual medications for heart conditions, they were randomly selected to receive weekly injections of Wegovy or a placebo.

The research showed that out of the participants who received the drug, 569 (6.5%) experienced a heart attack, stroke, or heart-related death. In comparison, 701 (8%) of those who received the placebo had similar outcomes. This resulted in an overall risk reduction of 20%, as reported by the researchers.

The drop appeared to be fueled primarily by the difference in heart attacks, but the number of serious health complications reported were too small to tell whether the individual outcomes were caused by the drug or by chance.

Participants in the study who were given Wegovy experienced a 9% reduction in weight, whereas those in the placebo group only saw a less than 1% decrease.

Dr. Martha Gulati, a heart specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, observed that the Wegovy group experienced decreases in significant indicators of heart disease such as inflammation, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and waist circumference. These changes were evident early on in the study, even before significant weight loss was achieved.

According to Gulati, who was not involved in the study, this drug has significance beyond just weight loss in terms of its mechanism of action.

The accompanying editorial noted that it is still uncertain how much of the results can be attributed to weight loss versus the drug itself.

Approximately one-third of the participants in the study experienced significant side effects. The Wegovy group had a rate of 17%, while the comparison group had a rate of 8%. The most common reasons for dropping out of the study were nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues.

Approximately 75% of the participants were male and approximately 84% were Caucasian. Gulati and colleagues suggested that future studies should strive to include a more diverse population, including women and individuals from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Wegovy is part of a new class of injectable medications for obesity. On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Eli Lilly’s Zepbound, a version of the diabetes drug Mounjaro, for weight control.

The prices for both Wegovy and Zepbound are expensive, with monthly expenses averaging $1,300 and $1,000 respectively. However, there have been shortages of both drugs for several months, although the manufacturers have assured an increase in production.

Private health insurance typically does not cover medications and may have strict preauthorization rules. Medicare, the government health plan for older adults, is not allowed to cover weight loss drugs on their own. However, pharmaceutical companies and advocates for obesity treatment are advocating for wider coverage and urging Congress to pass a law requiring Medicare to cover these drugs.

According to Dr. Mark McClellan, former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the FDA, recent studies have shown that obesity medications can directly impact expensive health issues. This may play a role in changing the decision-making process for insurance coverage. In 2006, Medicare was given permission to cover weight loss surgeries for treating severe obesity-related complications, even if not for obesity itself.

He stated that this method could potentially be applicable in this context.


The AP Health and Science Department is backed by the Science and Educational Media Group of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely accountable for all of its content.