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Wegovy Approved to Cut Heart Disease and Stroke Risk

The maker of Ozempic and Wegovy has been granted government approval to sell its wares to help cut the risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke — a move that could help expand insurance coverage to the highly sought-after drugs.

In a press release, the Food and Drug Administration announced that Novo Nordisk, the Danish company behind the outrageously popular weight loss injectables, has been granted the first-ever stamp of approval for heart health specifically geared towards people who are overweight or obese.

"Wegovy is now the first weight loss medication to also be approved to help prevent life-threatening cardiovascular events in adults with cardiovascular disease and either obesity or overweight," John Sharretts, the FDA's diabetes and obesity czar, said in the press release. "This patient population has a higher risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack and stroke. Providing a treatment option that is proven to lower this cardiovascular risk is a major advance for public health."

Last August, Novo announced that semaglutide, the active ingredient in both Wegovy and Ozempic, had showed significant heart health benefits in a large-scale human trial. Specifically, the 2.4 milligram dosage, which is what's used in Wegovy as compared to the 1 mg version used for Ozempic, showed a link with lowered heart disease risk.

This beneficial usage of the drug, which belongs to a class of medicine known as GLP-1 agonists that mimics the feeling of fullness in the stomach, is just the latest in a growing list of positive semaglutide side effects — a list that is, unfortunately, tempered with a rap sheet of mild-to-severe issues it's been linked with.

Due to semaglutide's incredible boom in popularity in the nearly three years since the FDA approved the higher-dose Wegovy injectable as a weight loss treatment, it's been flying off the shelves even as insurers demonstrate a reticence to shell out for it, leading some folks to either go without or seek unregulated and often dangerous grey-market alternatives.

In an interview with NPR, cardiologist Martha Gulati of Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center estimated that up to 70 percent of her patients could be eligible for the medication — which as of now is still not covered by many insurance companies.

"The hope," Gulati said, "is that insurers will start understanding that this is not a vanity drug."

More on semaglutide benefits: Semaglutide Can Cut Diabetic Kidney Disease Progression