The findings about the chemical—known as semaglutide—is particularly significant because this summer the European Medicines Agency (EMA) launched an investigation of its potential dangers.
Semaglutide is a chemical of the glucagon-like peptide receptor (GLP1R) that helps regulate blood sugar in type 2 diabetes and reduces appetite.
After examining about 2 million patients with type 2 diabetes or obesity, the research team—led by biomedical informatics professor Rong Xu—found no evidence to support the EMA’s concern that semaglutide may cause suicidal ideations.
In fact, the study, recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine, found that Ozempic and Wegovy actually reduced the risk for suicidal ideations.
To assess the association of semaglutide and the risk of suicidal ideations, the team began examining electronic health records of nearly 101 million patients nationally. They then applied specific inclusion criteria to further select 2 million patients.
“It was similar to how we gathered real-time evidence of COVID-19 infections and outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Xu said.
Berger added that a clinical trial will be necessary to fully understand the side effects of semaglutide. In the meantime, the group has been able to analyze national data to help patients make educated decisions about the risk of using semaglutide.
In this study, two distinct patient populations were analyzed: Those with type 2 diabetes were provided Ozempic, while patients with obesity were prescribed Wegovy. Patients were tracked for six months to evaluate the occurrence of suicidal ideation as well as any recurrent suicidal thoughts, as recorded in their health records.
Men and women; Black, White and Hispanic patients; adults under 45; middle-aged adults (46–64); and elderly patients (65 years and older) also underwent separate examinations. Once more, the researchers reported, reductions in the risk of suicidal ideation were consistently found across age, ethnicity and gender.
When compared to non-GLP1R anti-obesity and anti-diabetes drugs, it showed a lower risk for both the first incidence and recurrence of suicidal ideations in patients who were prescribed semaglutide (as Ozempic or Wegovy).
“The exploding popularity of this drug makes it imperative to understand all its potential complications,” Davis said. “It’s important to know that prior suggestions that the drug might trigger suicidal thoughts is not borne out in this very large and diverse population in the U.S.”