Following the European Union’s lead, the United Kingdom has initiated an investigation into the potential suicide risks associated with popular diabetes and weight-loss drugs.
GLP-1 inhibitor: Glucagon-like Peptide-1
GLP-1 Inhibitor: The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is examining data related to suicidal behaviors linked to GLP-1 receptor agonists, as reported by Reuters. This action comes shortly after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) launched a similar probe prompted by reports of suicidal thoughts and self-injury in individuals using GLP-1 inhibitor drugs.
The scope of the U.K. investigation is comprehensive, covering not only Novo Nordisk’s Type 2 diabetes therapy Ozempic and its sister weight-loss treatment Wegovy but also the company’s first-generation obesity medication Saxenda. Additionally, it includes AstraZeneca’s diabetes drug Bydureon, Eli Lilly’s Trulicity, and Sanofi’s Lyxumia.
As of now, none of the GLP-1 inhibitor in diabetes treatments carry warnings about “suicidal behavior and ideation” in the U.S., whereas both Wegovy’s and Saxenda’s labels include such warnings. It is worth noting that GLP-1 drugs are typically prescribed at lower doses for diabetes treatment compared to obesity.
The EMA initiated its safety review in early July after receiving reports of 150 potential cases involving self-injury and suicidal thoughts. Similarly, the MHRA began its evaluation on July 12, with its drug safety and side effect monitoring system recording five such reports involving Novo’s semaglutide between 2020 and July 6 of this year, according to Reuters. Ozempic and Wegovy are both based on semaglutide, although Wegovy has not yet been launched in the U.K. by Novo Nordisk.
Despite the increasing popularity of Novo’s Ozempic and Wegovy in recent years, reports of various side effects have surfaced. Prior to the concern regarding potential suicide risks, the EMA had flagged a possible association between GLP-1 drugs and thyroid cancer. Disruptions to the stomach are also among the known side effects of this class of drugs that have garnered public attention. The American Society of Anesthesiologists issued a warning last month, advising patients to refrain from using GLP-1 drugs on the day of surgery due to their effects on the gastric system.