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Weight-Loss and Diabetes Drug Semaglutide Linked to Increased Risk of Rare Eye Condition, Studies Suggest

Semaglutide is a weight loss and diabetes treatment drug that has been linked to an increased likelihood of blindness due to a rare eye condition. Some of the brands under which it is sold include Wegovy and Ozempic.

JAMA Ophthalmology, a journal in which Harvard University carried out one of its investigations, shares details of this analysis. These researchers from Harvard Medical School were able to collect data from 16,827 patients who have attended Mass Eye and Ear during the six years. It was observed that when compared with other forms of weight control drugs given out in hospitals these people’s chances of developing this disorder were more than seven times greater. In fact, over three years 6.7% of these persons on semaglutide suffered from NAION as opposed to 0.8% who took alternative weight loss medications.

As per Prof Joseph Rizzo, a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, our results should be treated as important though not conclusive because subsequent research is required to explore these issues on a much larger scale in a more diverse population. In particular, if patients have other known optic nerve problems like glaucoma or if there is pre-existing significant visual loss from other causes, this new information should be discussed between patients and doctors.

However, experts argue that the use of semaglutide medications for diabetes or obesity should not be dissuaded by this potential risk. This issue needs further study considering the rapid escalation in semaglutide use and its possible licensing for problems ranging beyond obesity and type 2 diabetes; however, likely benefits have to be weighed against any conceivable drug side effects,” Graham McGeown, honorary professor of physiology at Queen’s University Belfast said.

In response to the study Novo Nordisk, the producer of Wegovy and Ozempic acknowledged that patient protection is their prime concern and hence they take all reports about adverse events caused by using their medicines very seriously. They also pointed out that NAION is not included among the known adverse drug reactions in the summary of product characteristics for the marketed formulations of semaglutide.

To confirm these findings and ensure that patients and healthcare providers are fully informed about its potential risks and benefits, further research is needed as semaglutide’s use continues to rise.

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