Friday, January 5, 2024 — Many people who take Ozempic or Wegovy to help with diabetes or weight loss don’t need to worry about having more suicidal thoughts or feelings while they are taking them, a new, big review says.
A collection of more than 100 million patient records was used to find out how likely it was that people taking semaglutide, which is sold as Ozempic for type 2 diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss, would have suicidal thoughts. The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The results were written up in the journal Nature Medicine on January 5.
Dr. Rong Xu, who wrote the study and is a professor of biomedical informatics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, told CNN that she chose to look into it after semaglutide and reports of suicidal thoughts were looked into by European regulators last summer.
This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a quarterly report saying that they are looking into similar reports from people who use a number of weight-loss drugs, such as Ozempic and Wegovy.
For the new study, Xu and her team, which included Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, looked at the number of suicidal thoughts in people who took semaglutide compared to people who took other diabetes or weight loss drugs.
People who took semaglutide were less likely to have suicidal thoughts than people who took drugs that didn’t target the GLP1R for the same conditions, Volkow told CNN. Semaglutide works by going after the GLP-1 receptor.
More than 240,000 obese people and more than 1.5 million people with type 2 diabetes were included in the study. It checked the chance of having suicide thoughts both before and after six months of taking the medicines.
At six months, people who were taking semaglutide to lose weight had a 73% lower risk of having suicidal thoughts for the first time and a 56% lower risk of having suicidal thoughts again. Bupropion, naltrexone, orlistat, topiramate, and phentermine were some of the drugs that semaglutide was compared to.
On CNN, the drops were 64% and 49% for people with type 2 diabetes, respectively. In this study, insulin, metformin, and newer groups of drugs called DPP-4 and SGLT-2 inhibitors were used to compare semaglutide to.
What exactly led to the review?
The number of people using Ozempic and Wegovy has grown a lot in the past few years. Xu said she had heard anecdotal stories of people who took the drugs becoming less addicted to things like smoking or drinking.
“It was kind of like a paradox,” Xu said of the European suicide investigation and the small number of stories of people who were less addicted.
Xu said she chose to look into the risk since she had access to a database with de-identified electronic health records from 100,8 million people in 59 U.S. health systems.
Today, millions of people are being given drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, as well as related ones like Mounjaro and Zepbound. Most of the time, the side effects are digestive problems like nausea, vomiting, and constipation. However, reports of more dangerous side effects, like stomach paralysis, have come out.
In the United States, both Wegovy and Zepbound come with warnings about the chance of suicide thoughts and actions. CNN reported that the prescribing information for an older drug called Saxenda, which is also in the same GLP-1 receptor class, also says that patients should be watched for signs of depression or suicidal ideas or actions.
Volkow also brought up rimonabant, an old weight-loss drug that was taken off the European market in 2008 because people taking it were having suicidal ideas. She said that rimonabant stops a type 1 cannabinoid receptor “that, when blocked, can cause bad emotional states.”
She also said it’s possible that sudden weight loss could “make some people vulnerable.”
In the most recent study, semaglutide was linked to a lower chance of suicidal thoughts. However, Xu and Volkow wrote in a research briefing that the results “do not yet justify off-label treatment” for suicidal thoughts.
“There is interest in testing semaglutide as a possible treatment for depression,” Volkow said.
In fact, at least one study is currently looking for people to do just that.
Nature Medicine, January 4, 2024; CNN
Disclaimer: Note that the statistical information in medical articles only shows broad trends and does not apply to specific people. Different things can make a big difference. When making decisions about your own health care, you should always get personalised medical advice.