Ozempic and Wegovy could double as kidney disease treatment, study suggests


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Semaglutide medications — including Ozempic and Wegovy — have been shown to reduce the risk of kidney failure and the risk of death among people with kidney disease and type 2 diabetes.

In a trial led by UNSW Sydney between June 2019 and May 2021, researchers found that a small weekly dose of semaglutide lessened the likelihood of “major kidney events” by 24%, according to a press release.

The study, funded by Novo Nordisk and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, included more than 3,500 participants with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease from 28 countries.

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The participants received 1.0 mg per week of semaglutide, which is less than what is typically prescribed for weight loss or diabetes, the release noted. 

The median follow-up was 3.4 years.

Semaglutide medications — including Ozempic and Wegovy — have been shown to reduce the risk of kidney failure and the risk of death among people with kidney disease and type 2 diabetes. (iStock)

“It’s the same chemical compound, but we used a lower dose … we did that deliberately because people with kidney disease tend to be more sensitive to the effects and side effects of drugs,” said the study’s lead author, professor Vlado Perkovic of UNSW Sydney, in the release.

“That’s helpful in terms of being able to perhaps have the drug more widely used than might have otherwise been the case given the current supply limitations.”

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The group of people taking semaglutide were also 18% less likely to experience a heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular events, the study found.

Why does semaglutide have this effect?

Patients with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease are at a significant risk for kidney failure, cardiovascular events and death, according to Dr. Brett Osborn, a neurologist and longevity expert in Florida.

“The recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlights semaglutide’s potential to mitigate these risks,” Osborn, who was not involved in the study, told Fox News Digital. 

Dr. Osborn Headshot23

Dr. Brett Osborn, a neurologist and longevity expert in Florida, noted that patients with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease are at a significant risk for kidney failure, cardiovascular events and death.  (Dr. Brett Osborn)

Semaglutide works by improving glycemic control, Osborn noted — which is crucial in mitigating diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease). 

“It also lowers inflammation — particularly within the blood vessel lining,” he said. 

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This reduces blood vessel damage and improves blood flow through the kidneys.

“Overall, semaglutide offers substantial renal and cardiovascular protection for patients with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease,” Osborn said.

At a base level, semaglutide, through indirect mechanisms, improves vascular health. The better blood flow to your organs — be it your heart, brain or kidneys — the longer you are likely to live.”

ozempic

Semaglutide works by improving glycemic control, one doctor noted, which is crucial in mitigating diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease).  (Getty Images)

Outside the spectrum of diabetes, Osborn said he believes these medications will have a major impact on human health, comparing them to the advent of antibiotics at the turn of the century.

Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, also said this was a “very important” study.

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“This lifesaving result is likely due to the metabolic effects of the drug, which helps with reducing inflammation, overcoming insulin resistance, and improving insulin function and glucose metabolism at the cellular level,” Siegel told Fox News Digital. 

“This study has broader implications for all patients who have kidney failure.”

“Improved kidney function means improved heart function, and pressure on the heart from failed kidneys is a major cause of heart attack and death.”

Siegel added, “This study has broader implications for all patients who have kidney failure or are at risk for it.”

NOVO

Novo Nordisk, the Denmark-based company that makes Ozempic and Wegovy, announced the positive primary results from the trial at the European Renal Association (ERA) Congress in Sweden last week. (LISELOTTE SABROE/Scanpix Denmark/AFP via Getty Images)

Novo Nordisk, the Denmark-based company that makes Ozempic and Wegovy, announced the positive primary results from the trial at the European Renal Association (ERA) Congress in Sweden last week.

“FLOW is the first ever renal outcomes trial with a GLP-1 receptor agonist, and demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in kidney disease progression, cardiovascular death, and all-cause mortality risk with semaglutide 1 mg,” Michael Radin, executive medical director for diabetes at Novo Nordisk, said in a statement sent to Fox News Digital. 

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“This study highlights our drive to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people living with type 2 diabetes and CKD and to deliver innovations to address current unmet medical needs in CKD pending FDA approval.”

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Wegovy is an injectable prescription weight loss medicine that has helped people with obesity. (Michael Siluk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

To leverage semaglutide as a treatment for kidney disease, there is a need to overcome supply shortages and conduct research about combining the medication with other therapies, the researchers stated in the release.

Novo Nordisk will also need to seek regulatory approval for the drug to be used for chronic kidney disease patients.

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“The challenge is to get these results into clinical practice, to get the drug used by the people who will benefit from it, who will live longer without dialysis, without heart attacks, without strokes, if they take this drug,” Perkovic said.

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