EU Panel Probes Cases of Suicidal Thoughts on Weight Loss Drugs

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July 11, 2023 – The European Medicines Agency is investigating Ozempic and another drug that leads to weight loss amid fears that the medicines may increase the risk of suicide.

The agency’s safety committee, which handles safety studies on medicines that have been authorized for use, met last week. The investigation comes after an Icelandic health authority reported three cases of thoughts of suicide or self-harm among people who were taking Ozempic or a similar drug called Saxenda, according to the news agency Reuters.

Both drugs are made by the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. Ozempic is approved in the U.S. for managing diabetes but has become well-known for its weight loss effects. Saxenda is FDA-approved for weight loss but hasn’t experienced the fame of other weight loss medicines that are more effective. The drugmaker issued a statement to multiple media outlets stating that safety is the company’s top priority and all adverse event reports are treated very seriously.

The prescribing information for Saxenda and Ozempic in the European Union does not list suicidal thoughts as a side effect, Reuters reported. U.S. prescribing instructions for the weight loss medication Wegovy, which contains the same active ingredient as Ozempic, do advise monitoring for suicidal thoughts or behavior. The U.S. prescribing instructions for Saxenda also include monitoring for suicidal thoughts, as well as for depression.

An FDA database lists 60 reports of suicidal thoughts or ideas since 2018 among people taking the drug semaglutide, which is the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, according to an analysis by Reuters. The news agency found 70 reports since 2010 for the drug liraglutide, which is the active ingredient in Saxenda.

The FDA says reports do not establish causation and that the agency continues to monitor drug safety even after a drug is authorized in the U.S.