With 4-year data, Novo bolsters star power of obesity blockbuster Wegovy

With new four-year data in hand, Novo Nordisk can make a case for its popular obesity med Wegovy to be used as a long-term treatment.

May 14, at the European Congress on Obesity in Venice, investigators unveiled results from an analysis published in Nature Medicine evaluating Wegovy’s weight loss benefits over four years.

In more than 17,000 non-diabetic overweight and obese patients who suffered from preexisting heart disease, patients lost an average of nearly 10% of their total body weight after 65 weeks on the med, the investigators said. Patients sustained the results until the end of four years when their average weight loss came to 10.2%.

The study, called SELECT, was the longest the company has conducted yet on its semaglutide product for weight loss, head of development, Marin Holst Lange, told Reuters in an interview.

The data could “unlock another $2 billion opportunity” for Novo, Union Investment analyst Makus Manns told Reuters.

When England’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) made Wegovy available last year on the country’s National Health Service, the regulator wasn’t sold on the med’s long-term effectiveness and specified that it can only be used for a maximum of two years. Now, that argument could potentially be countered.

Importantly, another SELECT analysis demonstrated that the med's cardio benefits were seen in patients over a 5-year span regardless of their initial body weight and regardless of how much weight they ended up losing.

Novo announced the initial cardiovascular outcomes of the study last summer, revealing a 20% reduction of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) for up to five years compared with placebo. The trial linked Wegovy to a 15% reduction in risk of cardiovascular death and a 19% reduction in the risk of death from “any cause,” the company later noted.

The data were used to support a label expansion for the drug in the U.S. earlier this year, making Wegovy the first weight loss treatment to bag an FDA nod to reduce cardiovascular risks.

That indication marked a “major advance for population health” in a patient group with an elevated risk of severe cardiovascular outcomes, FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research’s head of diabetes, lipid disorders and obesity, John Sharretts, M.D., said in a statement at the time.

Wegovy, along with other GLP-1 meds from Novo and rival Eli Lilly, has been flying off pharmacy shelves since its 2021 launch. After cutting back supply of starter doses last year and relaunching the doses in January, the company now plans to “gradually scale efforts” throughout the rest of the year to keep up with intense demand while also continuing to “safeguard continuity of care,” it said in a recent presentation.