Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy Sustains Weight Loss for Four Years in Two Studies

Novo Nordisk Building

Pictured: Novo Nordisk's corporate headquarters in Denmark/iStock, Ole Schwander

Novo Nordisk’s blockbuster GLP-1 analog Wegovy (semaglutide) can maintain meaningful weight loss for up to four years and improve cardiovascular health regardless of the amount of weight lost, according to two studies presented at this week’s European Congress on Obesity in Italy.

The first study, which was published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine, followed patients in Novo’s SELECT cardiovascular outcomes study for more than 200 weeks and found that patients treated with Wegovy were able to sustain their initial weight loss over that period of time.

Patients in the Wegovy group showed consistent weight loss through 65 weeks, after which they were able to sustain their body weight for four years with no rebound. On average, participants dropped 10.2% of their body weight, compared to 1.5% in placebo counterparts. The treatment difference of 8.7% was strongly statistically significant in favor of Wegovy, according to the journal article.

SELECT is a randomized, double-blinded and parallel-group trial that enrolled more than 17,600 overweight or obese participants who had no history of diabetes. Wegovy was given at a 2.4-mg dose.

In addition to weight loss, Monday’s long-term readout showed that 52% of the Wegovy-treated participants transitioned to a lower body mass index (BMI) category after two years, compared to only 16% in the placebo group. After treatment with Wegovy, 12% achieved healthy BMI.

“This degree of weight loss in such a large and diverse population suggests that it may be possible to impact the public health burden of multiple obesity-related illnesses,” Donna Ryan, professor emerita at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the study’s lead author, said in a statement.

“While our trial focused on cardiovascular events, many other chronic diseases including several types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and anxiety and depression would benefit from effective weight management,” she added. Ryan has served as a scientific advisor or consultant to Novo.

The second study presented at the European Congress on Obesity also drew from the SELECT trial and looked at the relationship between weight change and cardiovascular outcomes.

Results showed that Wegovy treatment improved cardiovascular outcomes, regardless of the patients’ starting weight and the amount of body weight they lost. These findings indicate that even people with mild obesity, or those who are only able to lose a modest amount of body weight, may still derive clinical benefit from Wegovy.

John Deanfield, professor of cardiology at the University College London and lead of the second study, said that these results suggest that “the drug has other actions which lower cardiovascular risk beyond reducing unhealthy body fat,” such as lowering blood pressure, sugar levels or inflammation. Wegovy might also exert “direct effects” on the heart and blood vessels, Deanfield added.

In terms of safety, the proportion of participants in the SELECT trial with serious adverse events was lower in those treated with Wegovy compared to the placebo group—33% versus 36%—which was mainly driven by differences in cardiac disorders. However, more patients receiving Wegovy discontinued the trial due to gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea and diarrhea, primarily during the 20-week dose escalation phase. Also, rates of gallbladder stones were higher in the Wegovy group.

At the same time, the authors cautioned that SELECT is not a primary prevention trial and the data “should not be extrapolated to all individuals with overweight and obesity” to prevent major adverse cardiovascular events. They also noted that the dataset “does not have the numbers of individuals in racial subgroups that may have revealed potential differential effects.”

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. Reach out to him on LinkedIn or email him at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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