HAMBURG, Germany — Israeli researchers have discovered that the drug semaglutide — which goes by the popular brand names Wegovy and Ozempic — can significantly improve blood sugar control and promote weight loss in adults with Type 2 diabetes over a period of up to three years.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use it effectively, leading to increased glucose levels in the blood. With time, it becomes increasingly challenging to manage these levels. Semaglutide belongs to a group of drugs known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, which assist patients in regulating their blood sugar levels.
“Our long-term analysis of semaglutide in a large and diverse cohort of patients with Type 2 diabetes found a clinically relevant improvement in blood sugar control and weight loss after six months of treatment, comparable with that seen in randomized trials,” says study lead author Avraham Karasik, a professor from the Institute of Research and Innovation at Maccabi Health Services, in a media release. “Importantly, these effects were sustained for up to three years, supporting the use of once weekly semaglutide for the long-term management of Type 2 diabetes.”
Prior studies had already shown semaglutide’s efficacy when administered once a week, but there was a lack of extensive, long-term real-world data on its performance.
To address this, Israeli researchers analyzed data from 200,000 patients in the Maccabi diabetes registry. They focused on 23,442 patients who had been prescribed weekly doses of semaglutide between August 2019 and December 2022. Their blood sugar control levels were assessed both 12 months before and six months after commencing the treatment.
The optimal target for HbA1c (a common measure of blood sugar control) in Type 2 diabetes patients is less than seven percent. Levels beyond this can increase the risk of complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve disorders.
The findings were encouraging. Six months into the treatment, patients, on average, experienced a 0.77 percent drop in HbA1c levels (from 7.6% to 6.8%) and lost about 4.7 kg in weight. The benefits were even more pronounced in patients who had never taken a GLP-1 receptor agonist drug previously.
The research also highlighted that consistent adherence to the treatment led to more significant reductions in both blood sugar levels and weight. In cases where patients had maintained a regimen for at least two years, they saw sustained improvements in HbA1c and weight over three years, particularly those with high adherence.
The study, though, did not examine potential side-effects.
“In this large real-world study, we were able to show durable reductions in HbA1c and body weight with emphasis on drug adherence,” says Karasik. “Data are in line with results in randomized controlled trials and show the long-term stable benefit of once weekly semaglutide.”
The findings were presented at this year’s Annual Meeting of The European Association for the Study of Diabetes.