Wegovy Users Keep Pounds Off for 4 Years: Analysis

3 min read

May 14, 2024 – People with heart problems who took the weight loss drug Wegovy maintained an average weight loss of 10% of their body weight 4 years after starting the drug. 

On average, people who were a part of a study lost weight gradually over the course of about 1 year and 3 months, and then stabilized around 10% below their starting weight at the 4-year mark. Not everyone taking Wegovy in the study lost a significant amount of weight. After taking the drug for 2 years, 44% of people had lost 10% of their body weight or more, while nearly one-third of those in the study lost less than 5% of their body weight.

The findings are important because questions have lingered about the impacts of taking the drug long-term. The active ingredient in Wegovy is called semaglutide, which is the same active ingredient as in the diabetes drug Ozempic. Both are made by the Danish drug company Novo Nordisk.

"This is the longest study we've conducted so far of semaglutide for weight loss," Martin Holst Lange, MD, PhD, Novo Nordisk’s executive vice president for development, told Reuters. "We see that once the majority of the weight loss is accrued, you don't go back and start to increase in weight if you stay on the drug.”

The findings were presented at this week’s European Congress on Obesity conference in Venice, Italy, and also published in the journal Nature Medicine.

The people in the study lost on average 3 inches from their waist circumference after 4 years. The authors also noted that people in the study with lower BMIs were most likely to stop taking the drug, suggesting perhaps that “tolerability may differ among specific BMI classes.” They also reported that there were no newly identified safety concerns as a result of their analysis.

Semaglutide works by mimicking hormone processes in the body that result in feeling full, but it has been linked to numerous side effects, such as gastrointestinal issues. People in the study took the drug as a weekly shot. The retail price of a single weekly dose is around $325. The retail value of taking the drug for 208 weeks (4 years), which was the study period, totals $67,600.

The trial specifically enrolled people age 45 or older with a body mass index of 27 or greater who were diagnosed with heart disease but not type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Results previously published from the same trial were the basis for the FDA’s adding an approval in March for Wegovy to be prescribed for adults with serious heart problems who also have overweight or obesity, making it the first weight loss medication to be approved to prevent life-threatening events related to the heart and blood vessels. It reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke by 20%, previous results from the same trial showed.

“Our long-term analysis of semaglutide establishes that clinically relevant weight loss can be sustained for up to 4 years in a geographically and racially diverse population of adults with overweight and obesity but not diabetes,” said researcher Donna Ryan, MD, of Pennington Biomedical Research Center in New Orleans, according to a statement. “This degree of weight loss in such a large and diverse population suggests that it may be possible to impact the public health burden of multiple obesity-related illnesses. While our trial focused on cardiovascular events, many other chronic diseases including several types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and anxiety and depression would benefit from effective weight management.”