An NIH-funded analysis found that people taking semaglutide had a significantly lower risk of suicidal ideation than individuals taking other weight loss/diabetes drugs — contradicting previous case reports.
Semaglutide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, is a medication for diabetes management. It is also a highly effective weight loss drug, which is why it has surged in popularity over the past year among people looking to shed extra pounds. Semaglutide is the active ingredient in medications like Ozempic and Wegovy.
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began investigating the safety of semaglutide after people reported experiencing suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm while taking the medication.
However, a new study found evidence that contradicts previous anecdotal and case reports of suicidal thoughts possibly related to these medications.
The study, published on January 5 in Nature Medicine, analyzed electronic health records of 240,618 people with overweight or obesity and 1,589,855 individuals with type 2 diabetes taking semaglutide or other non-GLP-1 diabetes/weight loss medications.
Researchers reviewed health record data from people who were overweight or obese between June 2021 and December 2022 and those with type 2 diabetes between December 2017 and May 2021. They identified any incidences of suicidal thoughts, ideation, or behavior among participants.
The scientists followed the participants for six months after starting the medications. They discovered that people who took semaglutide had a 49% to 73% lower risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation than individuals taking other drugs for weight loss or diabetes control.
Specifically, people taking semaglutide for weight loss had a 73% lower risk of experiencing suicidal ideation for the first time in their lives and a 56% lower risk of having recurrent suicidal thoughts and ideas.
Moreover, people with type 2 diabetes who took semaglutide had a 64% lower risk of first-time suicidal thoughts and a 49% lower risk of recurrent suicidal ideation.
Among people with type 2 diabetes, semaglutide was associated with a lower risk of first-time suicidal ideation even after a three-year follow-up.
Still, the investigators observed more associations between semaglutide and suicidal ideation in participants with overweight or obesity than in those with type 2 diabetes. Recommended doses for semaglutide are higher for weight management than diabetes control, which the scientists suggest may indicate the risks of suicidal ideation might depend on the amount of semaglutide prescribed.
Though the analysis does not support claims that semaglutide increases the risk of suicidal thoughts, the scientists say future studies should continue to evaluate the associations between semaglutide and suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-injury.