There’s yet another amazing use for drugs like Ozempic, study finds

Wegovy is a prescription drug that is said to help with weight loss (Alamy/PA) (PA )
Wegovy is a prescription drug that is said to help with weight loss (Alamy/PA) (PA )

Weekly Ozempic injections could dramatically reduce the risk of kidney complications, heart issues and even death in people with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease, according to a major new study.

More than one in seven Americans – approximately 37 million – are affected by chronic kidney disease, the National Institutes of Health states. And about one in three people with diabetes also have chronic kidney disease, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the disease has no cure, weekly injections of blockbuster drugs such as Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy could slash the risk of severe outcomes, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday finds.

It’s all thanks to Ozempic’s active ingredient: semaglutide.

The compound is a synthetic version of the naturally occurring hormone GLP-1, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels.

In advanced stages of chronic kidney disease, the organs become so damaged that they struggle to filter blood. The build-up of fluid and waste in the blood can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.

An Ozempic needle injection pen, used by patients for one type of semaglutide (PA)
An Ozempic needle injection pen, used by patients for one type of semaglutide (PA)

Research shows that injecting semaglutide decreases the risk of severe outcomes from diabetic kidney disease by about 24 per cent.

“This is as good as it gets,” Dr Katherine Tuttle, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine and an author of the study, told The New York Times.

Novo Nordisk, which funded the trial, is seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to update Ozempic’s label to say it can also be used to reduce the progression of chronic kidney disease or complications in people with Type 2 diabetes.

Around 3,500 people across 28 countries living with type 2 diabetes and kidney disease were part of the trial. Half were given weekly 1mg injections of Ozempic; the other half a placebo.

Participants were followed for an average of three and a half years – with the findings so significant that the trial, which was supposed to be up to five years long, ended early.

Severe outcomes – including significant loss of kidney function, kidney failure and death – occurred 331 times among those given Ozempic, compared with 410 events among those who received the placebo.

“Now, we have a highly effective therapy that reduces things that really matter to patients, families and communities: keeping their kidney function, preserving life and reducing the rates of cardiovascular events,” Dr Tuttle said.

While not officially licensed as a weight loss treatment, drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy have been touted as permanent cures for obesity. Wegovy has been an FDA-approved treatment for chronic weight management since June 2021.

Semaglutide’s ability to suppress appetite and slow digestion has made it a favourite among Hollywood stars looking to shed the pounds quickly.