Ozempic adds 'saving kidneys, hearts and lives' to its list of benefits

Ozempic adds 'saving kidneys, hearts and lives' to its list of benefits
Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) reduces the risk of kidney failure and death
Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) reduces the risk of kidney failure and death
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Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) reduces the risk of kidney failure and death
Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) reduces the risk of kidney failure and death

Semaglutide, better known as Ozempic and Wegovy, has added another string to its therapeutic bow. A recent international clinical trial found that it significantly reduced the risk of kidney failure and death in type 2 diabetics with chronic kidney disease.

The antidiabetic and weight loss drug semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) is already a worldwide smash hit, and its list of health benefits outside these uses keeps getting longer. Recent studies have found it reduced heart risks in overweight non-diabetics and could be a treatment for alcohol use disorder. Now, a new study has found even more uses for the wonder drug.

An international clinical trial led by researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney found that a low weekly dose of semaglutide improved kidney function and reduced the risk of death in people with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

“We would be saving kidneys, hearts and lives in this population by making this drug available to them, and that’s quite extraordinary for one treatment to be able to do so,” said Vlado Perkovic, a kidney specialist and the study’s lead author.

The trial involved 3,533 participants from 28 countries with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease who were randomized to receive semaglutide or a placebo. Those in the semaglutide group received a weekly dose of 1.0 mg, a lower dose than is generally used for diabetes or weight loss treatment.

They found that semaglutide reduced the risk of ‘major kidney disease events’ by 24%. Kidney events included a combination of the onset of kidney failure requiring dialysis or organ transplantation and at least a 50% reduction in kidney function. The risk of death from any cause was 20% lower. The risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke was 18% lower for those taking semaglutide, and the drug slowed the loss of kidney function, lowered systolic blood pressure, and reduced participants’ body weight. However, 49.6% of participants suffered serious adverse events from taking semaglutide, but this was lower than in the placebo group (53.8%).

“It’s the same chemical compound, but we used a lower dose … We did that deliberately because people with kidney disease tend to be more sensitive to the effects and side effects of drugs,” Perkovic said. “That’s helpful in terms of being able to perhaps have the drug more widely used than might have otherwise been the case given the current supply limitations.”

By "supply limitations," Perkovic is referring to the recent global Ozempic shortage, which left patients without access to the drug last year and limited access this year.

The benefits observed in participants meant that the trial ended early, on the recommendation of an Independent Data Monitoring Committee (IDMC) that oversaw the trial and reviewed its data. The researchers hope their findings will help the growing number of people with kidney disease, a common complication of diabetes.

“One of the most common causes of kidney disease is diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, which has also been growing dramatically in recent decades,” said Perkovic. “We’re really starting to dramatically improve outcomes for people with diabetes and kidney disease. But that will only happen if the results are translated into action at the clinical coalface, so that’s an important step.”

For semaglutide to be used the way the researchers used it in the trial, it will need to receive regulatory approval to treat those with chronic kidney disease.

The trial was funded by Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic and Wegovy, and the study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Source: UNSW Sydney

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