July 13, 2024

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Harvard Study Finds Semaglutide May Increase Risk of Blindness

Harvard Study Finds Semaglutide May Increase Risk of Blindness



Harvard Study Finds Semaglutide May Increase Risk of Blindness

In recent years, semaglutide has gained global popularity for its remarkable effectiveness in treating type 2 diabetes and aiding weight loss. However, with its widespread use, attention is now turning to its potential side effects.

On July 3, 2024, Harvard University researchers published a study in JAMA Ophthalmology titled “Risk of Nonarteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy in Patients Prescribed Semaglutide.”

The study indicates that patients treated with semaglutide for diabetes or weight loss have a higher risk of developing nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), a potentially blinding eye disease, compared to those not using the medication.

Specifically, individuals using semaglutide for type 2 diabetes were found to be 4.28 times more likely to be diagnosed with NAION, while those using it for weight loss were 7.64 times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition.

The corresponding author of the paper noted that the use of semaglutide has skyrocketed, providing significant benefits in various aspects. However, discussions between patients and doctors should now include the potential risk of NAION.

Harvard Study Finds Semaglutide May Increase Risk of Blindness

NAION is a relatively rare disease, with approximately 10 cases per 100,000 people in the general population. It is the second leading cause of optic nerve blindness and the most common cause of sudden optic nerve blindness, with no effective treatment currently available.

In this study, researchers analyzed over 16,827 patients at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary of Harvard Medical School since semaglutide was approved for treating type 2 diabetes in 2017. These patients were categorized into diabetes and overweight/obese groups. The research team compared patients treated with semaglutide to those using other diabetes or weight loss medications and analyzed the diagnosis rates of NAION.

Among the 16,827 patients, 710 had type 2 diabetes (194 using semaglutide; 516 using non-GLP-1 receptor agonist anti-diabetic drugs), and 979 were overweight or obese (361 using semaglutide; 618 using non-GLP-1 receptor agonist weight loss drugs).

In the type 2 diabetes group, 17 cases of NAION were reported among semaglutide users, compared to only 6 cases in the non-GLP-1 receptor agonist cohort. Over 36 months, the cumulative incidence of NAION was 8.9% for semaglutide users and 1.8% for the non-GLP-1 receptor agonist group. Cox proportional hazards regression model showed a higher risk of NAION in semaglutide users (hazard ratio of 4.28).

In the overweight or obese group, 20 cases of NAION occurred among semaglutide users, compared to only 3 cases in the non-GLP-1 receptor agonist cohort. Over 36 months, the cumulative incidence of NAION was 6.7% for semaglutide users and 0.8% for the non-GLP-1 receptor agonist group. Cox proportional hazards regression model indicated a higher risk of NAION in semaglutide users (hazard ratio of 7.64).

These results suggest a correlation between semaglutide and NAION. However, this study does not prove a causal relationship between semaglutide use and NAION incidence. The research team acknowledges that further studies are needed to understand why this correlation exists and why there is a difference in NAION incidence between the diabetes and overweight/obese groups.

Thus, larger and more diverse population studies are required for further investigation.

Link to the paper

Harvard Study Finds Semaglutide May Increase Risk of Blindness

(source:internet, reference only)


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