Weight loss drugs Wegovy, Ozempic may be linked to stomach paralysis

Blockbuster weight loss and diabetes drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic may be associated with an increased risk of three rare, but severe, stomach conditions in non-diabetic patients, according to a new epidemiological study released Thursday.

The study, published in the research journal JAMA, comes as Novo Nordisk‘s Wegovy, Ozempic and similar treatments skyrocket in popularity in the U.S. for their ability to cause dramatic weight loss over time. But those drugs, known as GLP-1s, are also facing increased scrutiny after some patients reported experiencing stomach paralysis and suicidal ideation while taking them.

GLP-1s work by slowing digestion to suppress a person’s appetite but can cause problems if that process slows down too much.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia said the conditions in the study include one disorder not named in the warning labels for those drugs: stomach paralysis, which slows or completely stops the movement of food from the stomach to the intestine and can cause symptoms like persistent vomiting.

The study also notes an increased risk of bowel obstruction, a disorder where food is blocked from passing through the small or large intestine, and pancreatitis, which refers to pancreas inflammation. The labels for the drugs already include warnings about pancreatitis and certain types of bowel obstruction.

The researchers specifically examined semaglutide – the active ingredient used in Wegovy and Ozempic – and another GLP-1 called liraglutide against another weight loss treatment called bupropion-naltrexone, which works differently to help patients lose weight.

Their research is the first large, population-level study to examine the risk of serious stomach conditions in non-diabetic patients specifically using GLP-1s for weight loss.

Previous studies have highlighted the risk of those conditions in diabetic patients taking GLP-1s, according to the researchers. People with diabetes are also at increased risk of experiencing stomach paralysis and pancreatitis overall, even without the treatments.

“That’s why we kind of wanted to take diabetes out of the equation,” said Mohit Sodhi, one of the authors of the study. “In addition to the fact that millions of people around the world are using these drugs to help them lose weight.”

Novo Nordisk did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the study.

This content was originally published here.

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