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The Hill
The Hill
5 Jan 2024
Joseph Choi

NextImg:Popular diabetes, weight loss drugs not linked to increase in suicidal thoughts: Research

Semaglutide, a diabetes and obesity treatment that has grown in popularity in recent years, can be associated with a lower risk of suicidal ideation compared to other medications, according to a recent analysis.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that semaglutide was associated with a 49 to 73 percent lower risk of first-time or recurring suicidal ideations when compared to other treatments.

Researchers looked at U.S. electronic health records for 240,618 patients who were prescribed semaglutide or another medication for obesity and 1.5 million patients who were similarly treated for diabetes.

Following these patients’ records for six months, researchers found there was a 0.11 percent and 0.13 risk first-time suicidal ideations among obesity and diabetes patients respectively, who also did not have a prior history of suicidal ideation.

“Our findings do not support higher risks of suicidal ideation with semaglutide compared with non-GLP1R agonist anti-obesity or anti-diabetes medications,” the researchers wrote, while also recommending further study.

Semaglutide is marketed under the brand names Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy by its sole manufacturer Novo Nordisk. Ozempic and Rybelsus are indicated for type 2 diabetes while Wegovy is indicated for weight loss.

The Food and Drug Administration is currently looking into anecdotal reports from patients who say they experienced depression, hair loss and aspiration — when something gets caught in the airway — while taking GLP-1 agonists, a class of drugs which semaglutide falls within.

GLP-1 agonists mimic a hormone that stimulates insulin production and reduces appetite. European regulators similarly launched inquiries last year into whether these drugs could increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.

While there are certain side effects associated with semaglutide use — pancreatitis, kidney failure and low blood sugar among them — depression and suicidal ideation are not currently listed among the side effects on the medication guide for these drugs.

An increase in suicidal thoughts is also not commonly associated with other diabetes treatments. This side effect, however, is indicated for some obesity medications including Contrave and IMCIVREE.