Ozempic and Wegovy May Be Linked to Increased Risk of Rare Form of Blindness — but More Research Is Needed

Authors of a new study say additional research is needed to determine causality between semaglutide and a condition called NAION

<p>Mario Tama/Getty</p> Diabetes drug Ozempic

Mario Tama/Getty

Diabetes drug Ozempic

People who take Ozempic and Wegovy may have a higher risk of developing a rare eye condition that can cause blindness, according to a new study, but more research is needed.

The study, published July 3 in JAMA Opthamology, found that patients with diabetes who were prescribed semaglutide — the ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy — were more than four times more likely to develop a condition called non-arthritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, or NAION, as NBC News, Reuters and CNN reported.

In a statement to the news outlets, Novo Nordisk, the company that manufactures Ozempic and Wegovy, said, “Patient safety is a top priority for Novo Nordisk, and we take all reports about adverse events from the use of our medicines very seriously."

NAION is a condition that can cause sudden and permanent blindness that has no known treatment. The new study was prompted by doctors at Mass Eye and Ear after they noted three cases in one week in patients using semaglutide medications, per CNN. Researchers analyzed data and medical records from 16,827 patients in the Boston area between 2017 and 2023.

Still, said researchers, "future study is required to assess causality" between the ingredient semaglutide and NAION.

Related: Ozempic Face — and Now Ozempic Breast and Butt? What's Really Going on with These Side Effects?

<p>George Frey/Bloomberg/Getty</p> Ozempic

George Frey/Bloomberg/Getty


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Dr. Joseph Rizzo, the director of neuro-opthatmology at Mass Eye and Ear, told NBC News that researchers cannot determine for certain whether semaglutide causes NAION because the study's findings were based on a review of existing data. The expert emphasized to the outlet that a larger, randomized controlled clinical trial would be needed to further prove a link between the ingredient and the disease.

“What it does show is an association between taking semaglutide and developing this condition where you lose vision,” he told the outlet.

Related: Prescriptions for Ozempic and Similar Drugs Up 600% in Teens and Young Adults

<p>George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty</p> Wegovy

George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty


In April, weight-loss expert and gastroenterologist Dr. Steven Batash told PEOPLE that Ozempic and similar drugs may also impact a person's libido or limit their desire for alcohol due to their effects on dopamine release in the brain.

While some recent reports have highlighted the potential for drugs that are classified as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists to help alcohol addiction, Batash said studies have shown those drugs, "including semaglutide, may have an impact on testosterone levels in men."

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