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European regulator investigates possible suicidal risk linked to popular diabetes drugs used for weight loss

GLP-1 agonists under scrutiny as potential association with suicidal risk sparks concern

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently investigating the potential link between diabetes drugs, popularly used for weight loss, and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. The focus of the investigation is on GLP-1 agonists, a class of medications known for their role in regulating metabolism and hunger. More details are in the news below.

GLP-1 agonists: from diabetes treatment to weight loss aid

GLP-1 agonists came to the market in 2005 as a treatment for diabetes. Subsequently, in 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved liraglutide, known as Victoza, for diabetes management. Novo Nordisk's Ozempic, another GLP-1 agonist, received FDA approval in 2017. However, in 2014, the FDA also approved Semaglutide, sold as Ozempic, specifically for weight loss in overweight or obese individuals suffering from some weight-related conditions like high cholesterol, Type II diabetes, or high blood pressure.

FDA's 2020 clinical review raised concerns about a possible link between liraglutide and suicidal ideations in adolescents. Although suicidal behavior was observed in both liraglutide and placebo groups, the agency determined that the benefits of liraglutide's efficacy outweigh the possible risks, particularly for obese adolescents.

Ozempic for diabetes management

Balancing the benefits and risks: GLP-1 agonists as a practical option

While the ongoing investigation into the potential link between GLP-1 agonists and suicidal thoughts raises concerns, healthcare professionals stress that these medications can still be a valuable tool for individuals suffering from severe obesity and related health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Northwell Staten Island University Hospital's director of bariatric surgery, Dr. John Angstadt, highlights that weight loss through GLP-1 agonists, such as semaglutide (Ozempic/Wegovy), can significantly benefit patients with obesity, as a 5-10% reduction in body weight has shown positive impacts on related medical conditions.

However, Dr. Angstadt acknowledges that although psychological side effects are rare than digestive issues like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, they are not entirely non-existent. Patients considering these medications are advised to inform their healthcare provider about any history of suicidal thoughts or depression. Additionally, lifestyle changes are essential for long-term weight management, as drugs alone cannot provide a comprehensive solution.

While the investigation is underway, healthcare professionals have been advised to closely monitor patients taking these medications for signs of psychological distress.

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