Drug News

Study Links Wegovy and Ozempic to Sight-Threatening Eye Disorder

A recent study has highlighted a concerning potential side effect of semaglutide, the active ingredient in Novo Nordisk’s popular weight-loss drug Wegovy, as well as its diabetes medications Ozempic and Rybelsus. According to a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, patients using semaglutide may face an increased risk of developing nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), a serious eye condition that can lead to sudden, painless vision loss in one eye.

Key Findings

  • Increased Risk: The study found that the rate of NAION was significantly higher among patients using semaglutide for type 2 diabetes (8.9%) compared to those on non-GLP-1 diabetes medications (1.8%).
  • Weight Loss Medication: For those using semaglutide for weight management, the incidence of NAION was 6.7%, compared to 0.8% among patients on other weight-loss medications.
  • Study Details: The observational study spanned 36 months and included 710 adults with type 2 diabetes and 979 individuals taking medications for weight loss.

Understanding NAION

NAION is caused by inadequate blood flow to the optic nerve, making it the second leading cause of optic nerve-related blindness after glaucoma. The risk of developing NAION increases with age, particularly in individuals over 50. The prognosis for visual recovery is generally better for younger patients.

Implications and Limitations

Despite the association found in the study, Novo Nordisk has cautioned against drawing definitive conclusions from the data, emphasizing the study’s limitations. The research was not a randomized controlled trial, and as such, cannot establish a causal relationship between semaglutide and NAION. The Danish pharmaceutical company stated that NAION is not currently listed as an adverse reaction for marketed formulations of semaglutide.

Expert Opinions

Graham McGeown from Queen’s University Belfast, who was not involved in the study, remarked on the need for further research to confirm these findings. He stressed the importance of balancing potential side effects with the benefits of semaglutide, especially given its growing use for various conditions beyond obesity and type 2 diabetes.


While the study provides valuable insights, it underscores the necessity for larger, more controlled studies to thoroughly understand the risks associated with semaglutide. Patients using Wegovy, Ozempic, or Rybelsus should be aware of these potential risks and discuss them with their healthcare providers. Balancing the benefits and possible side effects is crucial in making informed decisions about using these medications.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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