A new epidemiological study has suggested that blockbuster weight loss and diabetes drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic may be associated with an increased risk of three rare but severe stomach conditions in non-diabetic patients. The study, published in the research journal JAMA, comes as Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy, Ozempic, and similar treatments are gaining popularity for their ability to cause dramatic weight loss over time. However, these drugs, known as GLP-1s, are facing increased scrutiny due to reported cases of stomach paralysis and suicidal ideation in some patients taking them. GLP-1s work by slowing digestion to suppress appetite but can cause problems if this process slows down too much.
The University of British Columbia researchers conducted the study, focusing on the conditions that include stomach paralysis, bowel obstruction, and pancreatitis in non-diabetic patients using GLP-1s for weight loss. The study specifically examined semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy and Ozempic, and another GLP-1, called liraglutide, against another weight loss treatment, bupropion-naltrexone. Wegovy is approved for weight loss in the U.S., while Ozempic is approved for diabetes.
The study found an increased risk of stomach paralysis, bowel obstruction, and pancreatitis in non-diabetic patients using GLP-1s for weight loss. The researchers excluded diabetic patients from the study, focusing on individuals with a recent history of obesity who were prescribed semaglutide or liraglutide between 2006 and 2020. The study’s findings are based on the analysis of health insurance claim records for approximately 16 million U.S. patients. Novo Nordisk responded, stating that some gastrointestinal side effects in the study are already included on the labels for its GLP-1s, and the company stands behind their safety and efficacy when used as directed.