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Is there anything Ozempic can’t do? Miracle jab cuts risk of deadly kidney disease affecting three million Brits as experts hail ‘better than we dared hope’ effect


A weight-loss jab can cut the chance of dying from kidney disease by almost a quarter, a world-first study has found.

Patients given semaglutide – a key ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy – were less likely to develop kidney failure or need a transplant, which was seen as a «game changer» for the disease.

They were also much less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke, adding to the recent finding that this is the biggest breakthrough in cardiovascular disease since statins.

Known for dramatic weight loss, experts believe these latest benefits are independent, with the drug triggering a separate reaction in kidney cells.

Scientists said the seemingly miracle drug «saves kidneys, hearts and lives» and increases the chances of survival in conditions traditionally considered a death sentence.

A world-first study found that patients given semaglutide – a key ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy – were less likely to progress to kidney failure or need a transplant.

This graph shows how kidney patients given semaglutide (yellow line) were less likely to suffer severe kidney damage compared to patients taking placebo (grey line).  The larger graph shows the raw data, where the smaller graph shows that this is calculated as a reduced risk of an event, meaning a 24 percent lower risk of a serious kidney problem in patients taking the Ozempic ingrideint cohort

This graph shows how kidney patients given semaglutide (yellow line) were less likely to suffer severe kidney damage compared to patients taking placebo (grey line). The larger graph shows the raw data, where the smaller graph shows that this is calculated as a reduced risk of an event, meaning a 24 percent lower risk of a serious kidney problem in patients taking the Ozempic ingrideint cohort

Professor Vlado Perkovic, lead researcher from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, said it was a «really exciting» day for kidney patients.

He said: “The benefits we have seen have been greater than we dared to hope for and we think this is a game changer for diabetes and kidney disease.

«We think this is a really huge step forward for the community and very exciting for people with diabetes kidney disease.»

Uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure are the biggest causes of chronic kidney disease, killing around 45,000 people in the UK each year.

Rising levels of type 2 diabetes are causing a ‘tsunami of kidney disease’ worldwide, affecting around 7.2 million people in the UK.

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The global FLOW study included 3,500 patients with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease, including 62 from the UK, who were followed for more than three years.

They were either given the appetite suppressant semaglutide – a prescription drug offered by the NHS – or a placebo.

One in 20 people taking the fake drug and existing treatment died during this period, indicating the level of disease among these patients.

When given once a week at the same dose as Ozempic, it was found to reduce the risk of serious kidney problems or death from heart or kidney causes by 24 percent.

The risk of major cardiovascular events – such as heart attacks and strokes – fell by 18 percent, and the chance of dying prematurely from any cause fell by a fifth (20 percent).

Ahead of presenting the results at the European Renal Association congress in Stockholm, Sweden this weekend, Professor Perkovic said the potential implications were «dramatic».

“First, just by reducing the progression of kidney disease, fewer people will go on dialysis, which will reduce the number of people on dialysis and also the number of people who need kidney transplants.

«In the long term, with fewer people needing transplants, they can be available more quickly for those who still need them, therefore reducing the wait time to get well.»

The findings come less than a fortnight after research presented at the European Congress on Obesity showed that Novo-Nordisk’s drug reduced the likelihood of heart attack and stroke by a fifth.

Praised by celebrities including Jeremy Clarkson,
Taken once a day, the pens trick the brain into thinking it is full, thus suppressing appetite.  Effects may be visible within weeks.  Patients report that their favorite foods, including coffee, chocolate and fried chicken, have repelled them.  Pictured is a supporter of Ozempica, the eccentric billionaire Elon Musk

Celebrated by celebrities including Jeremy Clarkson (left) and Elon Musk (right), «miracle» weight-loss shots like Ozempic and Wego have been proven to help people lose up to 2 pounds. But experts said anyone relying on them for long-term weight loss could be disappointed, as the drugs’ effects wear off after a few months.

A surge in demand for the punches, fueled by celebrity endorsements, also sent global stocks down.  The shortage is expected to last until mid-2024 at the earliest. Boy George and Sharon Osbourne are among other celebrities who have admitted to taking the drug
But growing evidence suggests that in the real world, the drugs' side effects, such as vomiting and diarrhea, are proving so common and overwhelming that current versions make it impractical for most patients to stay on them for very long.  The result is a very high real-life patient dropout rate due to side effects.  Pictured is Oprah Winfrey, who also admitted to using Ozempic

A surge in demand for the punches, fueled by celebrity endorsements, also sent global stocks down. But growing evidence suggests that in the real world, the drugs’ side effects, such as vomiting and diarrhea, are proving so common and overwhelming that current versions make it impractical for most patients to stay on them for very long. Both Sharon Osbourne and Oprah Winfrey have admitted to using Ozempic

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Leading cardiologists hailed the breakthrough as the biggest since the introduction of statins in the 1990s, which are now used by millions of Britons.

Professor Perkovic said more research was needed to find out exactly what was behind the reaction and whether it could one day be used for other forms of kidney disease.

He added: «There will be a lot of interest in whether this could actually help protect kidney function and people with transplants, but that hasn’t been explored yet, but it will be an important area for the future.»

It’s not the first time revolutionary weight loss has been hailed as a breakthrough in kidney disease.

Earlier this year, Professor Katherine Tuttle, a kidney researcher at the University of Washington who was also involved in the study, told the Mail on Sunday early results suggested the drug could «completely change» the way doctors treat kidney disease.

«We could save so many lives and thousands from needing dialysis or the anxiety of needing a new organ,» she said.

She added: «We are in a revolutionary time for kidney disease – this could turn out to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of medicine.»

Doctors are still not sure why semaglutide has such a strong effect on kidney disease.

«It is possible that GLP-1 drugs have an anti-inflammatory effect,» Professor Tuttle said.

Kidney disease is often defined by scarring within the organ, but early studies suggest that GLP-1 agonists may protect patients from this damage.

«Our hope is that if patients are treated long enough, they might start to get better.»

Dr. Aisling McMahon, chief executive of Kidney Research UK, said the UK was facing a «looming crisis» with increasing numbers of people needing dialysis due to rising levels of diabetes, one of the most significant risk factors for chronic kidney disease.

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She said: “We are very encouraged to see the results of the FLOW trial, which showed that semaglutide improves survival and also slows down the decline in kidney function in this group of patients.

«We hope this is just the beginning – we would like to see more research involving non-diabetic CKD patients who may benefit from this treatment.»

Save the punches for sick people like me

One patient with kidney disease who is already taking semaglutide is Dawn Cerruto, 52, who has lived with the disease for 26 years.

A social worker from New Jersey underwent dialysis for three years after her diagnosis before receiving a transplant.

While her kidney disease has remained relatively stable since then, she later developed diabetes and began taking semaglutide last year.

«At first I had stomach pains and I actually lost too much weight,» says Dawn. «But now I’m on a lower dose and my diabetes is stable.»

Dawn Cerruto, 52, a social worker from New Jersey, has lived with the condition for 26 years.

Dawn Cerruto, 52, a social worker from New Jersey, has lived with the condition for 26 years.

Only recently did Dawn discover that the injection – which she gives herself once a week – can also prevent her kidney disease from getting worse.

“When I read that I thought, I must be on the right drug.

«My doctors have told me that the new kidney I have will probably last another ten years, but hopefully taking semaglutide will make that time even longer.»

But Dawn – who is also an ambassador for the charity American Kidney Fund – says the current global shortage of semaglutide worries her.

«It’s such good news that it could help prevent kidney disease from getting worse, but so many people take it because they just want to lose weight,» he explains.

«There are patients like me who really need this drug, so it should only be considered as a last resort for patients who are otherwise healthy.»



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