International studies confirm positive effects of weight loss medicine for people with obesity-related heart failure

Professor Melanie Davies

Two new studies have confirmed the benefits of weight loss medication, semaglutide, for patients living with obesity-related heart failure

The Director of the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and Co-Director of the Leicester Diabetes Centre Professor Melanie Davies CBE was a co-author on these significant papers published in the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 616 patients who had heart failure (with preserved ejection fraction) a body-mass index of 30 or more, and type 2 diabetes received a once-weekly dose of semaglutide (2.4 mg) or a placebo medicine for 52 weeks.  

At the end of the year, researchers compared the change in the participants’ Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire clinical summary score (KCCQ-CSS; scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating fewer symptoms and physical limitations) change in body weight, heart failure events, six minute walk distance; and the change in the C-reactive protein (CRP) level. 

Among patients with obesity-related heart failure with preserved ejection fraction and type 2 diabetes, semaglutide led to larger reductions in heart failure–related symptoms and physical limitations and greater weight loss than those who were given the placebo medicine one year later.  

Semaglutide is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes that increases insulin secretion, suppresses glucagon secretion, and slow gastric emptying. 

In the paper published in the Lancet on 7 April 24, an international team of researchers from the USA, Glasgow and Denmark along with the University of Leicester’s Professor of Diabetes Medicine, Melanie Davies, analysed patient data from the STEP-HFpEF DM and STEP-HFpEF studies which were carried out at 129 clinical research sites in 18 countries between March 2021 and September 2022. 

Overall, data from 1,145 participants were included in the pooled analysis, 573 in the semaglutide group and 572 in the placebo group. 

Through their detailed analysis, the researchers discovered that semaglutide was superior to placebo in improving heart failure-related symptoms and physical limitations, and reducing bodyweight in participants with obesity-related heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. These positive effects were largely consistent across patient demographic and clinical characteristics.   

Professor Davies said: “We’re hopeful that our findings will enable us to provide further treatment options for patients living with obesity-related heart failure in the future and that these treatments could have the combined benefits of improving heart failure-related symptoms, reducing physical limitations and reducing bodyweight.” 

Leicester Diabetes Centre is based at Leicester General Hospital and is part of a collaboration between the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.