Drugs like Ozempic, increasingly popular for weight loss, increase the risk of certain serious gastrointestinal problems, including stomach paralysis, according to a large study published Thursday.
The work, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama), one of the world’s leading medical journals, analyzed a class of medications called GLP-1 agonists, which includes the brands Wegovy, Ozempic, Rybelsus and Saxenda.
The rate of serious side effects was compared with another class of weight loss medications, bupropion-naltrexone.
GLP-1 agonists were associated with a fourfold increased risk of gastric paralysis, a ninefold increased risk of pancreatitis, and a fourfold increased risk of intestinal obstruction.
These conditions can lead to hospitalization and the need for surgery, depending on the severity.
“Given the widespread use of these medications, these adverse effects, although rare, should be considered by patients who are considering using them to lose weight,” Mohit Sodhi, lead author and medical student at the University of British Columbia, said in a statement. In Canada.
“The risk calculation will vary depending on whether the patient is using these medications for diabetes, obesity or just weight loss in general,” he added. “People who are otherwise healthy may be less willing to accept these potentially serious adverse effects.”
GLP-1 agonists, initially developed to treat type 2 diabetes, have gained popularity in recent years as a means of losing weight, especially with off-label use.
Saxenda and Wegovy were approved for weight loss in 2020 and 2021, but the clinical trials used to authorize them involved very small numbers of people and a short follow-up period to detect very rare events, researchers said.
The recent study was the first to examine the issue on a larger scale, said epidemiologist and co-author Mahyar Etminan.
The analysis included patients with a recent history of obesity, but excluded those with diabetes or those prescribed another antidiabetic drug. Just over 5,400 records were included in the final analysis.
“The results of this study highlight the importance of patients accessing these medicines only through trusted medical professionals and only with ongoing support and monitoring,” said Simon Cork, professor at Anglia Ruskin University, who was not involved in the research.