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Weight-loss drug cuts risk of heart attack, strokes: Novo Nordisk

Danish pharma group Novo Nordisk’s obesity drug Wegovy cuts the risk of heart attacks and strokes by a fifth, the company said in an announcement Tuesday that sent its shares soaring to a record high.

Though preliminary, it is the first research to suggest this class of weight loss medication, which has attracted considerable attention from the wider public, can confer lasting improvements to cardiovascular health.

The trial enrolled 17,604 adults aged 45 years who were either overweight or obese, and were randomised to receive either the injected drug, or a placebo, over a period of five years.

Strokes, heart attacks, and cardiovascular death were reduced by 20 percent, Novo Nordisk said in a statement, though it did not offer a breakdown for each category.

The detailed results of the trial will be presented at a scientific conference later this year, it said, adding that it plans to apply for regulatory approval to expand the uses for Wegovy in the United States and the European Union in 2023.

Novo Nordisk’s share price closed up by more than 17 percent on the Copenhagen stock exchange on Tuesday.

“We are very excited about the results,” the company’s executive vice president for development Martin Holst Lange said, adding the drug “has the potential to change how obesity is regarded and treated”.

The medical community also welcomed the results.
While the trials “still need to be confirmed through careful peer review, they demonstrate the urgent need for patients living with obesity to be offered this effective and safe drug to prevent future disease,” said Simon Cork, senior lecturer in physiology at Anglia Ruskin University, who was not involved in the research.

The results “are exciting as preventing heart attacks and stroke with a drug that also lowers weight is very important for many patients,” added Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine, University of Glasgow, who was also not involved in the research but has previously consulted for Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk, the world’s biggest insulin maker which manufactures both Wegovy and diabetes drug Ozempic, in May announced a 39 percent rise in its first quarter profit, buoyed by sales of its obesity treatments.

In mid-July, the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency said it was reviewing data “on the risk of suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self-harm” with three popular weight-loss drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy — which both have semaglutide as their main ingredient — and Saxenda, whose main ingredient is liraglutide.

Competition among pharmaceutical groups over obesity treatments is fierce, with more than a billion people in the world suffering from obesity, according to the World Health Organization.