EU watchdog reviews weight-loss drugs’ suicide risk

BRUSSELS (AFP): The EU medicines watchdog said Tuesday it is reviewing three popular weight-loss drugs after reports they may trigger thoughts of suicide and self-harm among users.

So-called GLP-1 receptor agonists are used mainly to treat diabetes but have gained massive popularity as a weight-loss cure, with doctors warning about potential side effects or shortages.

The European Medicines Agency’s safety committee “is reviewing data on the risk of suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self-harm with medicines… including Ozempic (semaglutide), Saxenda (liraglutide) and Wegovy (semaglutide).”

“The review was triggered by the Icelandic medicines agency, following reports of suicidal thoughts and self-injury in people using liraglutide and semaglutide medicines,” the Amsterdam-based agency said.

“So far authorities have retrieved and are analysing about 150 reports of possible cases,” it added in a statement.

But the agency stressed that it was not yet clear whether the reported cases were linked to the medicines themselves or the patients’ underlying conditions or other factors.

The cases did “not necessarily mean that a medicine caused the adverse event in question.”

Both Saxenda and Wegovy are authorised in the EU for weight management while Ozempic is used to treat type 2 diabetes, but also for off-label weight loss, the EMA said.

Denmark’s Novo Nordisk, which makes both Wegovy and Ozempic, in May reported a 39 percent jump in first-quarter profits buoyed by the sale of obesity treatments.

Ozempic, originally developed as an injectable anti-diabetic drug, uses a molecule called semaglutide that mimics a hormone that can slow down the emptying of the stomach, reducing appetite.

Recently, health experts have voiced concern after Ozempic became a social media phenomenon as a “miracle” treatment for losing weight fast, prompting warnings about misuse.

Semaglutide is also used in Wegovy, which has been approved to treat obesity in several countries, including in the US since June 2021.