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Weight-loss jab investigated for suicide risk

Despite being a diabetes medication, people without the health condition have been buying Ozempic due to its appetite curbing side-effects, which led to global shortages earlier this year. Now, it’s being reviewed by European regulators over a possible connection to thoughts of self-harm among users.

Earlier this year, discourse about weight-loss drugs spread like wildfire online, thought to be influenced by suspected reports of celebrities using them to shed a few pounds.

According to a database maintained by the US Food and Drug Administration, this amounted in an Ozempic shortage worldwide, leaving those truly in need of the medication unable to fill their prescriptions.

The Ozempic injection, which regulates blood sugar levels and insulin for patients with Type 2 diabetes by mimicking a hormone produced in the gut called GLP-1, shot to popularity due to its appetite curbing side-effects.

Now, it’s being reviewed by European regulators over a possible connection to thoughts of suicide and self-harm among users.

According to the BBC, the European Medicines Agency was alerted to the potential link following three cases.

Ozempic, Weight-Loss Drugs Are Being Investigated For Suicide Risks - Bloomberg

As a result, its Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee will investigate anything containing either semaglutide or liraglutide.

They will also assess Wegovy, Saxenda and other similar injectable drugs that are comparable to Ozempic, in that they are known to suppress hunger and make you feel full.

‘The review is being carried out in the context of a signal procedure raised by the Icelandic Medicines Agency, following three case reports. A signal is information on a new or known adverse event that is potentially caused by a medicine and that warrants further investigation,’ an EMA official told the BBC.

‘The case reports included two cases of suicidal thoughts – one following the use of Saxenda and one after Ozempic. One additional case reported thoughts of self-injury with Saxenda.’

While Saxenda and Wegovy are both approved and licensed for weight loss in the UK, Wegovy is not yet available, though GPs in England may start offering it to some patients to reduce the number of people living with obesity and the strain on the NHS, the Prime Minister said in June.

Not only this, but a pill form of semaglutide is currently being developed, as pharmaceutical giants race to be the first to market with the oral version of the drug because doctors believe it will be more palatable to people than injections and there is big money to be made from it (Ozempic is forecast to have 2023 sales of $12.5 billion and up to $17bn in 2029).

As uncovered by the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) public dashboard, there have been at least 60 reports of suicidal ideation since 2018 from patients on semaglutide.

Despite this, however, leading healthcare company Novo Nordisk – which manufactures Ozempic – defended its use.

‘The safety data collected from large clinical-trial programmes and post-marketing surveillance have not demonstrated a causal association between semaglutide or liraglutide and suicidal and self-harming thoughts,’ reads a statement on its website.

‘Novo Nordisk is continuously performing surveillance of the data from ongoing clinical trials and real-world use of its products and collaborates closely with the authorities to ensure patient safety and adequate information to healthcare professionals.’