Weight loss drugs Wegovy, Ozempic proven to treat addiction, depression
Weight loss drugs are being evaluated for their potential to treat conditions such as depression and addiction after a special study showed that Wegovy helped reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
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LONDON – Scientists have begun investigating whether so-called miracle obesity drugs could be used to treat conditions such as depression and alcohol addiction after recent trials pointed to the drug’s effectiveness in treat serious health issues.
Late-stage trial data released last month by Novo Nordisk indicated that its Wegovy weight loss injection led to “significant reductions” in heart failure-related symptoms among at-risk patients .
It comes weeks after the Danish pharmaceutical company published the results of the much-anticipated “SELECT” study, which showed the drug’s role in reducing the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attacks or strokes.
The findings mark a major milestone as the company tries to expand perceptions of its product – known as a “vacuum drug” – and researchers hope it spells good news. for other drug applications.
“The results show that this medication can have health benefits beyond the short term,” said Christian Hendershot, director of the clinical and translational addiction research program at the University of Carolina. North in Chapel Hill, to CNBC via Zoom.
Treatment for drug and alcohol abuse
Hendershot is one researcher who is investigating whether the appetite control techniques in weight loss drugs could be used to treat other conditions such as alcohol and drug addiction.
Wegovy Novo Nordisk and Eli LillyMounjaro works by mimicking naturally occurring gut hormones that help regulate appetite in the brain, ultimately leading to weight loss. For that, they rely on active ingredients called semaglutide and liraglutide, respectively, which belong to a group of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists.
Pre-clinical trial data for several years have shown the effectiveness of GLP-1 medication in reducing drug and alcohol intake in animals. Hendershot is now testing Ozempic – Wegovy’s predecessor for treating type 2 diabetes – to see if these trends apply to humans as well.
“There is reason to be optimistic, especially with the reports. Now it’s up to us to do the research to confirm these findings with clinical data,” said Hendershot, who expects Early results will be released next year.
If more widespread use of the drug proves to be effective, the consequences could be huge, according to Kyle Simmons, a professor of pharmacology and physiology at Oklahoma State University, who first mentioned the effectiveness are drugs in reducing cocaine, amphetamine and opioid cravings. .
Simmons is currently leading the Semaglutide Therapy for Alcohol Reduction (STAR) trial, a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which is running alongside a separate but similar study at the University of Baltimore.
“If those two studies read out, and they’re both positive, it’s hard to overstate the impact this will have on the field,” he said.
Applications in Alzheimer’s disease
Some researchers hope that the drugs may have potential uses in the treatment of depression and other mental disorders.
Already, there is evidence to suggest that GLP-1 drugs can reduce the build-up of amyloid and tau in the brain – two proteins thought to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. .
Now, a trial underway at the University of Oxford will test patients at risk of dementia – ie those with high levels of amyloid in the brain – to see if the drugs lead to reduction in tau accumulation and brain inflammation.
“We want to see if these drugs interfere with the core physiology of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Ivan Koychev, senior clinical researcher, who is in charge of the study.
Elsewhere, others believe that the drugs could have applications in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a disorder that can cause irregular periods, hormone imbalances and fertility issues.
“If women with PCOS show positive outcomes in terms of irregular periods and length [excess hair growth] despite a small weight loss, it may underline the wider therapeutic potential of the drug,” said Harshal Deshmukh, consultant endocrinologist and senior clinical lecturer at the University of Hull, who is currently conducting one such a test.
Effects on reward cues
Additional use cases for weight loss drugs could add to the barriers that already exist for patients to use them, however: high costs and lack of supply.
Earlier this month, Novo Nordisk extended restrictions on initial doses of Wegovy due to production constraints, while Eli Lilly warned of continued delays in the Mounjaro product for the same reason.
Hendershot said the shortage was not affecting his investigation at the moment, but Simmons said it was a “major concern”.
Meanwhile, concerns have been raised about the potential side effects of the drugs after some patients reported thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen told a Reuters news event last month that the number of suspected cases was still small compared to the drug’s widespread availability. “When you have a medicine that is used in millions of patients, and many types of patients, you can encounter different events,” he said.
However, Simmons said more research is still needed to understand the effects of such drugs on reward signals in the brain. His own research will test for such signals by observing participants’ reward responses in a virtual simulation.
“Does this medication, due to its possible effect on the mesolimbic dopamine system, simply turn down the benefit of reward signals in a way that can cause anhedonia? encouragement? ” Simmons said. Anhedonia is a term used to describe a reduced ability to experience pleasure.
“If this drug is used by more and more people, if it starts to promote a general loss of interest in pleasure, that may not be a good thing, for example, for people with a history of depression depression,” he added.
If you have suicidal thoughts, call the agent Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in the US at 988 or the Samaritans in the UK at 116 123.