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Ozempic and Wegovy Linked to Rare (and Serious) Vision Problems, Study Says

Ozempic and Wegovy Linked to Rare (and Serious) Vision Problems, Study Says

Ozempic and Wegovy Linked to Rare (and Serious) Vision Problems, Study Says

Analysis of data from 17,000 patients over 6 years showed that those taking the drug were four times more likely to be diagnosed with eye disease than patients not taking the treatment.

A new study suggests that people who use the medicine semaglutide, sold under the brand names Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus, appear to be at increased risk of developing a serious eye disease.

Analyzing data from 17,000 patients over six years, US researchers found that those taking these drugs to treat type 2 diabetes were four times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than individuals who were not taking the treatment.

For those taking semaglutide to treat obesity, the risk of developing the eye disease was seven times higher.

However, researchers were unable to demonstrate that semaglutide was directly related to the eye problem, which can lead to vision loss in one eye, nor were they able to explain the reasons for this increased risk or the difference between the groups.

It is also worth noting that the number of patients suffering from the eye disease was small.

Ozempic is a 1 milligram injection, prescribed for type 2 diabetes. Rybelsus is available in 3.7 or 14 mg tablets, also used for diabetes. Wegovy is a 2.4 mg injection, used for obesity.

“Body ready for the pariah”

Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company that makes the drug, said patient safety was “a top priority” and stressed that the study had many limitations.

Clinical studies show that semaglutide can help people with obesity lose more than 10% of their body weight when treatment is accompanied by changes in diet and lifestyle.

The drug’s launch has sparked a lot of excitement, even more so after celebrities began posting on social media about sudden weight loss while on treatment.

Although they are only available by prescription for people with type 2 diabetes (Ozempic and Rybelsus) or obesity (Wegovy), many online stores sell semaglutide injections with little background checks on the person making the purchase.

As a result, experts and health officials say they are concerned that the drug is being misused as a “quick fix” for people who want to get their “beach bodies” ready.

All medications have potential side effects.

For semaglutide, some of the most common adverse events include:

  • nausea
  • vomit
  • diarrhea
  • stomach ache
  • Cold

Vision problems are listed as one of the more serious potential side effects in both the Ozempic and Wegovy labels.

The specific name of the condition evaluated in the research is nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. This condition affects up to 10 out of 100,000 people in the general population, researchers at Harvard University School of Medicine in the United States report.

The problem is thought to be caused by reduced blood flow to the optic nerve, which connects the eyes to the nervous system. There are currently no treatments available to address this condition.

The recent study on semaglutide found:

  • 17 cases of optic neuropathy among patients with type 2 diabetes taking semaglutide;
  • six cases among patients with type 2 diabetes who were taking other drugs;
  • 20 cases among overweight and obese patients using semaglutide;
  • three cases among overweight and obese patients taking different drugs.

Joseph Rizzo, author of the study and a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard, believes the results are significant but still inconclusive.

“Future studies are needed to evaluate these issues in a much larger and more diverse population,” she admits.

Experts at the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in the UK recommend that patients taking semaglutide be advised of the risk of developing eye disease, even if the likelihood is small.

Semaglutide box

Balance between benefits and side effects

Because of the small number of patients with the eye disease in the study – who may not have taken the drug according to the instructions on the package insert, for example – the risk statistics are not precise.

Novo Nordisk says the study did not take into account whether patients smoked or how long they had had diabetes, other factors that can affect vision. The lab also noted difficulties in accurately identifying cases of eye disease among the patients it evaluated.

A company spokesperson said: “Nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy is not listed as a known adverse drug reaction for marketed formulations of semaglutide.”

“Semaglutide has been studied in large, real-world studies and robust clinical development programs,” he added.

The drug is also being evaluated in research into its possible positive effects on diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that affects people with type 2 diabetes. This study is expected to be completed in 2027.

Graham McGeown, honorary professor of physiology at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, said: “Given the rapid increase in the use of semaglutide and its possible approval for a range of conditions beyond obesity and type 2 diabetes, this question [dos problemas oculares] deserves further study.”

“The possible side effects of drugs must always be balanced against the likely benefits,” he concludes.

Source: Terra

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