What is Wegovy? Drug found to improve blood sugar in diabetics

Semaglutide, which is sold under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic, is an appetite-suppressant drug  (Pexels)
Semaglutide, which is sold under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic, is an appetite-suppressant drug (Pexels)

The weight-loss jab semaglutide, known as Wegovy and Ozempic, has been found to improve blood sugar control and weight loss in people with diabetes, according to a new study.

Researchers said the effectiveness of taking semaglutide to treat type 2 diabetes once a week has been “demonstrated in randomised controlled trials”. However, long-term data is “lacking”.

Professor Avraham Karasik of the Institute of Research and Innovation at Maccabi Health Services in Israel, who led the study, said: “Our long-term analysis of semaglutide in a large and diverse cohort of patients with type 2 diabetes found a clinically relevant improvement in blood sugar control and weight loss after six months of treatment, comparable with that seen in randomised trials.

“Importantly, these effects were sustained for up to three years, supporting the use of once weekly semaglutide for the long-term management of type 2 diabetes.”

The drug, also known as semaglutide, is being prescribed via specialist NHS weight management services alongside a reduced calorie diet and exercise.

The National Institute for Care and Excellence (Nice) gave Wegovy the green light for NHS use earlier this year, but advises that it should be used for a maximum of two years.

What is Ozempic?

As with Wegovy, adults with type 2 diabetes use the once-weekly injectable drug Ozempic to help control their blood sugar levels.

Despite Ozempic not being classified as a weight-loss medication, research indicates that those who use it may experience slight weight reduction while doing so.

What is Wegovy?

Wegovy is an injectable medicine used for adults with obesity or a (body mass index) BMI of 27 or more. Patients will be required to inject themselves weekly.

It suppresses appetite by mimicking a hormone named glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that is normally released after eating. This makes people feel full, meaning they eat less and lose weight.

Nick Finer, honorary clinical professor at the National Centre for Cardiovascular Prevention and Outcomes at University College London, said: “The efficacy of semaglutide is a true game-changer for the medical treatment of obesity, a chronic disease that shortens life through its many complications.”

It has been reported that some users have hailed the drug as a miracle given the dramatic weight loss they have enjoyed.

Semaglutide has received various high-profile celebrity endorsements, with figures such as Twitter boss Elon Musk claiming to have used the drug. A Twitter user asked Mr Musk last October how he remained “fit, ripped, and healthy”, to which he replied “fasting” and “Wegovy”.

Who can use Wegovy?

Those with a BMI of 30 or more, or those with a BMI of 27 or more who also have a weight-related medical problem, can use the drug. Patients who are prescribed the medication will have the injections as part of a thorough weight-management programme and an increase in exercise.

Nice said that weight-related conditions that will make obese people eligible will include “type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, high blood pressure, dyslipidaemia (unbalanced or unhealthy cholesterol levels), obstructive sleep apnoea and heart disease”.

A study found that the weight of people who were given the drug fell by 12 per cent on average after 68 weeks.

Novo Nordisk tested its Wegovy weight loss jab as part of a trial over five years (PA) (PA Wire)
Novo Nordisk tested its Wegovy weight loss jab as part of a trial over five years (PA) (PA Wire)

How does Wegovy work?

Wegovy helps with long-term weight loss by regulating the body’s appetite and the amount of calories people consume.

Wegovy was approved for NHS use following research that indicated users could lose more than 10 per cent of their body weight but experts have warned that “skinny jabs” are no substitute for exercising and maintaining a healthy diet.

Does Wegovy have any side effects?

Nice said side effects should be minimal when the drug is used correctly. Symptoms include mild nausea, diarrhoea and headaches, but they were found to be “mild to moderate in severity and subsided with time”.

Analysis discovered that several patients who took Wegovy and Ozempic suffered severe gastroparesis, better known as stomach paralysis. Two patients who had taken the type 2 diabetes medication Ozempic said their “stomachs are paralysed” in a CNN article from July 25.

Wegovy is one of several weight-loss drugs being investigated for “a possible link to thoughts of suicide and self-harm among users”, the BBC has reported. The European Medicines Agency will investigate Wegovy, Saxenda, Ozempic and other similar drugs after three cases were identified in Iceland.