Novo Nordisk’s obesity drug cuts risk of death by 18%, trial data shows

Novo Nordisk’s obesity drug cuts risk of death by 18%, trial data shows

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Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss drug Wegovy cut the risk of death by 18 per cent in a trial that the Danish pharmaceutical company hopes will convince more health systems and insurers to pay for the treatment. 

Martin Holst Lange, executive vice-president of development at Novo Nordisk, said new data showed in more detail how the drug was “incredibly powerful” in tackling cardiovascular risk. 

Lange said that payers would be interested in the impact the drug had on mortality and expensive conditions, pointing to the “quite profound” effect it had in cutting the risk of heart attacks by 28 per cent. 

In August, initial data from the Select trial sent shares in Novo Nordisk up as much as 16 per cent, as investors became excited that the results could win over any health systems and insurers reluctant to cover the new class of weight-loss drugs. Wegovy has a US list price of more than $1,300 a month.

The full data was announced on Saturday at an American Heart Association congress and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

The results were published at the end of a week when Eli Lilly received US Food and Drug Administration approval for its obesity treatment Zepbound, which will compete with Wegovy, and AstraZeneca entered the race for a weight-loss pill after a partnership deal with Chinese biotech Eccogene.  

Novo Nordisk’s trial studied more than 17,600 people aged above 45 with obesity who had cardiovascular disease, but not diabetes. About 458 patients taking a placebo died during the trial, compared with 375 people taking Wegovy, representing an 18 per cent reduced risk of death.

There was a 15 per cent decline in the risk of death from cardiovascular causes specifically, though the numbers did not quite meet the bar for statistical significance. 

The paper comes after the preliminary results showed that patients who took Wegovy had a 20 per cent lower chance of suffering a cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack than participants who received a placebo. 

Lange said the trial also showed the drug had an impact on other conditions such as kidney disease. Last month, Novo Nordisk ended a trial designed to monitor the effect of Ozempic, a diabetes drug that contains semaglutide, the same active ingredient as Wegovy, on chronic kidney disease because the early results showed it was likely to be very successful. That data will be published in the next couple of months. 

“I expect to see really, really interesting and exciting data on the impact of semaglutide on chronic kidney disease,” Lange said.

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