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Wegovy is a semaglutide drug prescribed for weight loss and blood sugar level managment. UCG/Getty Images
  • New research demonstrates the long-term effectiveness of injectable semaglutide (Ozempic and Wegovy) at improving blood sugar control and weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • There’s also promising news surrounding tirzepatide (Mounjaro) when it comes to managing type 2 diabetes.
  • Experts say that with obesity rates rising in correlation with type 2 diabetes, finding new ways to treat the disease is critical.

New data shows that drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy are effective for up to three years in managing weight and blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.

In findings presented this week at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), researchers reported that injectable semaglutide — sold under the trade names of Ozempic and Wegovy — can be helpful for long-term type 2 diabetes management with just a single weekly shot.

Lead study author Prof. Avraham Karasik, professor emeritus at the Institute of Research and Innovation at Maccabi Health Services in Israel, explained to Medical News Today:

“Semaglutide is given once weekly and grants patients with type 2 diabetes improved glucose control and weight loss. Patients enjoy both weight-dependent decrease in blood glucose, in addition to the benefits of decreased weight and direct cardiovascular advantages.”

The research was funded by Novo Nordisk, the manufacturers of Ozempic. It also hasn’t been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal.

Nonetheless, Prof. Karasik said the research indicates that treatments for type 2 diabetes have come a long way in recent years.

Prof. Karasik saidthat study participants with lower adherence, in general, will see their glucose levels rise with time, and this was observed in the study.

Still, there was an intriguing wrinkle.

“Surprisingly, this was not accompanied by a parallel rise in weight, which stayed relatively stable through the follow-up period,” Prof. Karasik said.

Prof. Karasik explained that semaglutide was shown to be demonstrably effective at long-term weight management and blood sugar control, particularly for people with high adherence. He added that even those with lower adherence saw some of these benefits.

The study looked at data from a long period of time from a large number of patients — more than 23,000 in all — which represents an important step in demonstrating the effectiveness of these drugs, said Prof. Karasik.

“The effects of semaglutide have been proven in randomized control trials, but these trials are limited in terms of population. To increase inference to larger populations, we need real-world studies which include larger and more general populations for longer time periods. This is the main advantage of the study.”

— Prof. Avraham Karasik, lead study author

While type 2 diabetes isn’t the only type of diabetes, it’s by far the most prevalent. About 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and 90% to 95% of this group has type 2 diabetes.

What’s more, the number of people with type 2 diabetes increases every day, in large part to the strong correlation between obesity and type 2 diabetes.

“You can be born with bad genes, you can eat and drink too much, or you just don’t get exercise, but weight is a big part of it,” explained Michael Kane, PharmD, a professor at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in New York who specializes in diabetes and osteoporosis and was not involved in this latest research.

“We call this the ‘diabesity’ epidemic, where it’s diabetes and obesity because obesity is really fueling new cases of type 2 diabetes. Years ago, we used to think of it just happening in older adults, and now we’re seeing it in kids,” Kane told MNT.

Skyrocketing obesity rates and the accompanying spike in type 2 diabetes diagnoses are a cause for concern. However, these trends have also driven the development of new drugs to treat the disease.

In addition to the positive data surrounding semaglutide, there’s similarly good news surrounding the drug tirzepatide, sold under the trade name Mounjaro.

Another EASD annual meeting presentation showed that tirzepatide was better than semaglutide for controlling blood sugar and weight loss.

Those findings have also not been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal.

Kane says that newer drugs have given doctors more tools for treating people with type 2 diabetes.

“Years ago, we had two classes of drugs for type 2 diabetes and now we have 13 different classes of medications to treat diabetes,” he said. “We have insulin therapies like quick-acting mealtime insulin, and we also have a wide range of non-insulin therapies to treat diabetes.”

The landscape might be more promising than it was 20 years ago for people with type 2 diabetes, but this doesn’t change the fact that it’s a challenging condition to live with.

Kane says that once a diagnosis is made, both the patient and their doctor need to develop a management plan.

“Once the patient understands that they have type 2 diabetes, we can talk about what they might be able to do in terms of lifestyle changes, to healthfully lose weight and reduce their caloric intake,” he explained.

If a person is willing to make these necessary changes and adhere to a medication regimen, living with type 2 diabetes is more manageable now than ever before.

“There are so many newer medications available to not only lower blood sugar, but also do important things like protect the kidneys and protect the heart. There’s a lot of good therapies out there to give people hope because, as we know, poorly-controlled diabetes is associated with a number of long-term complications,. So it’s really important for patients to get a good handle on their blood sugar, and we have a multitude of medications that can help get them there now.”

— Michael Kane, PharmD, diabetes and osteoporosis expert