• A study has found that the weight loss drug reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 61% in individuals with prediabetes or normal blood glucose levels.
  • Semaglutide is available on prescription in the UK under the brand name Ozempic, used in treating type 2 diabetes.
  • The research will be presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, later this month.

Weekly injections of semaglutide have been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by more than half, according to research set to be presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.

The drug is commonly known under the brand name Ozempic and became available on prescription in the UK in 2019. Semaglutide also goes under the names Wegovy and Rybelsus. While it is a monotherapy used to treat type 2 diabetes, the drug has also been hailed for its weight-loss benefit.

“Semaglutide appears to be the most effective medication to date for treating obesity and is beginning to close the gap with the amount of weight loss following bariatric surgery,” says Dr W. Timothy Garvey of the Department of Nutrition Sciences, University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL, USA, who led the research.

“Its approval was based on clinical trial results showing that it reduces weight by over 15% on average, when used together with a healthy lifestyle programme.

“This amount of weight loss is sufficient to treat or prevent a broad array of obesity complications that impair health and quality of life and is a game changer in obesity medicine.”

The researchers analysed the data from two trials with semaglutide:

In one trial (STEP1), 1,961 participants who were either overweight or obese were given weekly 2.4mg injections of semaglutide or a placebo for 68 weeks.

The second trial (STEP4), involved 803 overweight or obese participants who received 2.4mg of semaglutide a week over 20 weeks.

Participants in both trials also received advice on diet and exercise.

Using Cardiometabolic Disease Staging (CMDS), the researchers could predict the participants’ risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the next decade.

CMDS has previously been used to measure the risk of type 2 diabetes, with the formula using factors such as a patient’s age, sex, race, BMI and blood pressure while also including blood glucose, HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Participants in STEP1 had a 61% decrease in their 10-year risk scores for type 2 diabetes, reducing from 17.8% at week 0 to 15.6% at week 68.

While some of the participants in the group with prediabetes had higher risk scores at the start of the trial, they reduced their risk by a similar amount to those with normal blood sugar levels.

STEP4 participants had the largest decrease in risk scores during the first 20 weeks, from 20.6% at week 0 to 11.4% at week 20. Individuals who carried on receiving the semaglutide had their risk scores decrease by a further 7.7%, while the risk score increased by 15.4% in those who were switched to the placebo.

The researchers believe the results indicate that continuous treatment with semaglutide is needed to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Garvey continued: “Semaglutide reduces the future risk of diabetes by over 60% in patients with obesity – this figure is similar whether a patient has prediabetes or normal blood sugar levels.

“Given the rising rates of obesity and diabetes, semaglutide could be used effectively to reduce the burden of these chronic diseases.”

Earlier this year,  a TikTok trend led to a shortage of Ozempic after social media users started documenting their weight loss progress using the drug online. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) was forced to release a  statement advising GPs to prioritise prescribing the drug to people with diabetes over those using it as a weight-loss treatment.

What members of the Diabetes Community are saying about semaglutide:

This article is from an early release due to be presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Annual Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden (19-23 Sept).

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