A study co-led by Case Western Reserve University and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provided evidence that semaglutide, an FDA-approved medication used to treat obesity and manage type 2 diabetes, was associated with a 49% to 73% lower risk of first-time or recurring suicidal ideations compared to other medications used for the same purposes. This stands in contrast to anecdotal reports of increased suicidal ideations resulting from semaglutide -- whose brand names are Wegovy when prescribed for obesity and Ozempic when prescribed for type 2 diabetes – which prompted certain European regulatory agencies to investigate the association.
Researchers “examined electronic health records in the United States from 240,618 patients who were obese or overweight…and who were prescribed semaglutide or another medication for weight loss between June 2021 and December 2022,” in addition to replicating the findings in “1,589,855 patients with type 2 diabetes” who were prescribed the medication, or a similar medication, for their condition between December 2017 and May 2021. The majority of these patients had no history of suicidal ideations, but a chunk (around 3% of the patients prescribed the medication for weight loss and around 1% of the patients prescribed for type 2 diabetes) did have a history.
Indeed, the study found that there was a lowered risk of suicidal ideations among those in the study who were prescribed semaglutide versus other weight loss medications. The researchers found that there was a “0.11% risk of first-time suicidal ideations…and approximately a 7% risk of recurrent suicidal ideation (among those with a prior history), compared to 0.43% and 14%, respectively, for the group prescribed other weight loss medications.”
Additionally, among patients with type 2 diabetes involved in the study, semaglutide was associated with “0.13% risk of first-time suicidal ideations and 10% for recurrent ideation, compared to 0.36% and 18%, respectively, for other diabetes medications.” Semaglutide was also associated with a lower risk of first-time suicidal ideation in patients with type 2 diabetes at follow-up durations of up to three years.
The authors concluded that “their results do not support concerns of increased suicidal risk associated with semaglutide” while emphasizing the need for a more detailed evaluation of the existing reports. They also recommended that future studies explore “longer-term associations with suicidal ideations in patients” and “any associations between semaglutide and suicide attempts.”
NIH has the news release.