The drug, Wegovy, lowered the risk of major cardiovascular events by 20% in a clinical trial that included over 17,000 adults ages 45 and older who have a history of cardiovascular disease and are overweight or obese.
As a result of the trial's findings, Novo Nordisk, the maker of Wegovy, said Tuesday that it plans to file for a "label indication expansion" for the drug, meaning it could be available beyond obesity, and with greater insurance coverage.
Without insurance coverage, the cost of Wegovy, a once a week injection, can run more than $1,000 a month.
"People living with obesity have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease but to date, there are no approved weight management medications proven to deliver effective weight management while also reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death," Martin Holst Lange, Novo Nordisk's executive vice president for development, said in a statement announcing the trial's findings. "Therefore, we are very excited about the results from SELECT showing that semaglutide 2.4 mg reduces the risk of cardiovascular events."
Novo Nordisk said the full findings of the SELECT clinical trial will be announced later this year at a medical conference.
Wegovy is part of a class of drugs called GLP-1 Receptor Agonists that help people produce insulin to lower the amount of sugar in the blood.
The drugs, made from a compound called semaglutide, work by slowing down movement of food through the stomach and curbing appetite, thereby causing weight loss.
Wegovy is currently FDA-approved for weight loss for people with obesity or who are overweight with a comorbidity like high blood pressure.
Last December, the FDA also approved Wegovy as a treatment for teenagers with obesity.
Ozempic, another semaglutide medication made by Novo Nordisk, is approved by the FDA to treat Type 2 diabetes, but some doctors prescribe the medication "off-label" for weight loss, as is permissible by the FDA.
The drugs have surged in popularity over the past year as effective treatments for both diabetes and weight loss.
Over 70% of American adults are considered to be overweight or obese, and more than 37 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obesity-related conditions including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer are the top causes of premature and preventable death, according to the CDC.
The latest clinical findings about Wegovy's impact on heart health could transform the drug's popularity even further.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S., with one person dying every 33 seconds from heart disease, according to the CDC.