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A new real-world study has found that the drug semaglutide (better known by the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy) effectively helped people with type 2 diabetes lose weight and improve blood sugar control over three years. Michael Siluk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • The diabetes drug semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) has been shown in a new study to provide results for up to 3 years.
  • People in the study had long-term improvements in blood sugar control and weight loss.
  • Doctors say these findings are significant for people with type 2 diabetes and associated obesity.
  • However, they caution that the drug is not a quick fix.
  • Changes in diet and lifestyle are necessary in order to improve your health.

According to a new study being presented this week at the 59th Annual Meeting of The European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), the diabetes drug semaglutide can significantly improve both blood sugar control and weight loss when taken for as long as three years.

The researchers said these results apply to adults with type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a medical condition in which the cells lose their ability to respond to insulin, forcing the pancreas to produce more and more.

When the pancreas can no longer keep up, blood sugar rises, which can damage the heart, kidneys, and eyes over time.

Semaglutide — available under the brand names Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus — is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. It works by mimicking the GLP-1 hormone, which is released by the gut when we eat a meal.

GLP-1 triggers insulin release in order to drive blood sugar into cells where it can be used for energy.

Semaglutide is also used by many healthcare providers off-label to aid weight loss due to its effects on controlling appetite.

Currently, only the Wegovy brand of semaglutide is FDA-approved for obesity treatment.

While semaglutide had previously been shown to be effective in randomized clinical trials, longer studies using large groups of people in real-world situations had not yet been performed. This was the goal of the current study.

To conduct their study, the researchers selected over 23,000 patients who had had at least one prescription for weekly semaglutide injections.

The chosen patients also had their HbA1c measured 12 months prior and about 6 months after beginning treatment with the drug.

The researchers then monitored how the patients’ HbA1c and weight changed for up to 3 years.

According to the study authors, higher HbA1c levels are linked with diabetes complications like heart and kidney disease. Improved HbA1c — with under 7% being the target goal — would be an indicator of better blood sugar control.

They found that after six months of treatment with semaglutide, people, on average, had reduced their HbA1c from 7.6% to 6.8%. They had also lost an average of 4.7 kilograms (10.4 pounds).

Analysis at the end of the study showed that people maintained these improvements.

It is also noteworthy that the people who had the best compliance with treatment had the best results.

Dr. Zeeshan Afzal, who is a physician as well as a content advisor for welzo.com, said these findings have “significant implications” for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

“Ozempic … has shown effectiveness in improving glycemic control, reducing HbA1c levels, and promoting weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes,” he said. “The fact that it can lead to sustained improvements in blood sugar levels and body weight is promising for individuals with type 2 diabetes.”

Afzal further explained that semaglutide can be considered an important treatment option when managing this condition.

“It may be especially beneficial for those who struggle to achieve adequate glycemic control with other treatments or lifestyle modifications,” he said.

However, he noted that it should be prescribed and monitored by healthcare professionals so that the patient’s individual needs, risks, and benefits can be taken into consideration.

Afzal added that these findings are also important for people who are living with obesity.

“Weight loss is an important aspect of managing obesity because it can lead to improvements in various health parameters, including metabolic health,” he explained.

“However, it’s important to note that Ozempic is not specifically approved as a standalone treatment for obesity, but rather as a treatment for type 2 diabetes,” he said. “Healthcare providers may consider its use in individuals with both type 2 diabetes and obesity to address both conditions simultaneously.”

Doctors caution, however, that people should keep in mind that drugs like semaglutide are not a quick fix for diabetes and obesity.

“Here’s the thing,” said Dr. Elizabeth Sharp, founder and CEO of Health Meets Wellness, “there is no silver bullet for obesity or weight management. You still need to make the more difficult behavior modifications if you want to lose weight and keep it off.”

However, the benefits of eating well and making lifestyle changes can be “exponential,” she said. “[Y]ou can really start to improve your cholesterol levels, vitamin levels, energy levels, and immune response and reduce your blood pressure and inflammation if you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.”

Medication helps reinforce these positive changes, according to Sharp, by providing more immediate results.

Afzal added that semaglutide is also not a one-time treatment that you just use to lose weight and then quit. It must be taken long term in order to manage your condition.

He further noted that not every person will get the same results with the drug and not everyone will lose the same amount of weight or gain the same control over their blood sugar.

Additionally, there may be certain side effects, he said, including gastrointestinal symptoms so it’s important to discuss that with your provider.

“In summary,” said Azfal, “Ozempic represents a valuable treatment option for type 2 diabetes and may have potential benefits in the context of obesity.

“However, its use should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan, and individuals considering it should have a thorough discussion with their healthcare provider to make informed decisions about its use, taking into account both its advantages and potential risks.”

New research shows that semaglutide can create long-term improvements in blood sugar control and obesity lasting up to three years.

Experts say it’s important to know that semaglutide is not a quick fix. It is still necessary to make changes in lifestyle and diet in order to improve your health. People should also be aware that the drug must be taken long-term in order to maintain its benefits.

As always, you should consult with your doctor in order to make the best treatment choices for your individual condition.