WEIGHT loss jabs could be the best ever medication for heart failure, scientists say.
US researchers found semaglutide – the drug used in Ozempic and Wegovy – helped reverse symptoms of the deadly condition more than any drugs seen before.
Dr Mikhail Kosiborod, of Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, said he was “very excited” by the “impressive and impactful” findings.
He said: “The benefits we observed with semaglutide on patients with this type of heart failure are the largest that we have ever seen with any pharmacologic intervention.
“They also highlight the importance of targeting obesity as a key and novel treatment strategy in HFpEF – a condition for which, until recently, we had very few effective therapies.”
Around 900,000 Brits live with heart failure, when the organ is no longer able to pump blood around the body properly.
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Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) – where the heart pumps as normal, but is too stiff to fill properly – blights more than half of them.
It affects the thickest of the heart's chambers, which is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood all over the body.
Previous research has shown semaglutide can help people lose nearly a fifth of their body weight after 68 weeks.
Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart failure, with extra weight increasing the demands on the organ.
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The latest research, presented at the ESC Congress in Amsterdam [PLEASE KEEP], looked at how semaglutide affected people’s heart failure symptoms.
The trial included 529 obese patients from 13 countries in Europe, North America, South America and Asia who had heart failure symptoms and physical limitations.
Their median age was 69 and the median weight was 16st 7lb (105.1kg).
One group was given a weekly 2.4mg dose of semaglutide for one year while the other was given a placebo.
Researchers assessed changes in body weight, as well as changes to heart failure-related symptoms using the clinical summary score (CSS) of the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire (KCCQ), which it described as "gold standard".
They also determined whether patients were able to perform better walking for six minutes.
After 52 weeks, the mean change on the KCCQ-CSS 16.6 points for patients on Wegovy compared to 8.7 points in the placebo group.
Body weight for those on Wegovy also reduced by a mean of 13.3 per cent compared to 2.6 per cent.
The mean change to walking distance in six minutes was 21.5 metres for those on Wegovy and 1.2 metres in the placebo group.
Dr Kosiborod said the findings suggested the drug may have been improving heart health independently of patients’ weight loss on it.
He said: “Collectively, these findings support the hypothesis that the range of benefits seen with semaglutide were not simply due to weight loss alone.
“Rather, the processes that underlie heart failure with preserved ejection fraction syndrome itself improved at the same time that weight was lost.”
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation and consultant cardiologist, hailed the findings.
She said: “Only a few years ago, drugs that could help people to achieve life-changing weight loss felt like a far-off dream. But now they are here.
“This study demonstrates that semaglutide is not only safe for people with this type of heart failure but it also has important benefits for their quality of life.
“For some people, living with heart failure can make everyday activities difficult or even impossible.
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“The kind of improvements seen in this study, such as being able to walk further, could have a transformational impact on someone’s life.”
The study was sponsored by Wegovy maker Novo Nordisk.
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