Wegovy (semaglutide), a groundbreaking weight-loss drug, has been in the spotlight for its transformative impact on obesity and diabetes treatment. However, a recent study presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) suggests that Wegovy might also hold promise for patients battling heart failure.
Revolutionizing Heart Failure Treatment
The study, led by Dr. Mikhail Kosiborod of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, revealed that treatment with Wegovy led to substantial improvements in heart failure symptoms, physical limitations, and exercise capacity compared to a placebo. Additionally, patients who received Wegovy experienced greater weight loss and fewer serious adverse events.
Key Trial Details
The trial specifically targeted obese heart failure patients with “heart failure with preserved ejection fraction,” a subtype of heart failure that comprises roughly half of all heart failure cases. Ejection fraction measures the heart’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to the body, and a low ejection fraction indicates impaired pumping ability. Patients with preserved ejection fraction, on the other hand, retain healthy pumping ability but still suffer from the debilitating symptoms of heart failure.
Addressing Obesity and Heart Failure
Given the common coexistence of obesity and heart failure, the study aimed to assess whether Wegovy could benefit patients dealing with both conditions. Sponsored by Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Wegovy, the trial involved 529 participants from North America and around the world. All participants had heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above (the obesity threshold), and documented functional declines based on standard assessments.
The results showcased significant differences between the Wegovy group and the placebo group:
• Weight Loss: Wegovy recipients experienced an average weight loss of 13.3% after one year, compared to a 2.6% decline in the placebo group.
• Symptom Improvement: Heart failure symptoms improved among Wegovy recipients, as indicated by the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire Clinical Summary Score. The Wegovy group saw an average improvement of 16.6 points, compared to 8.7 points in the placebo group.
• Enhanced Exercise Capacity: Patients taking Wegovy demonstrated marked improvements in the Six-Minute Walk Test compared to those on placebo.
Furthermore, the Wegovy group experienced fewer “serious adverse events,” such as emergency room visits or hospitalizations, compared to the placebo group.
Mechanism of Action
While the exact mechanisms by which Wegovy benefits heart failure patients require further investigation, one key factor is weight loss. Weight reduction addresses the underlying “metabolic disease” contributing to heart failure, potentially leading to symptom relief.
Although the trial has shown encouraging results, Dr. Yigal Pinto, a cardiology professor at Amsterdam University Medical Centers in the Netherlands, noted that it was relatively small. He emphasized the need for more extensive data to fully understand Wegovy’s role in aiding the heart.
Nevertheless, these findings offer hope and a potential additional treatment option for patients battling heart failure, a condition that significantly impacts their quality of life.