New findings indicate a significant decrease in suicidal ideation in patients taking the drug for obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Semaglutide, a widely approved medication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for managing type 2 diabetes and treating obesity, has shown promising results in a recent study, notably decreased risk of suicidal ideation. Published in Nature Medicine and co-led by researchers from Case Western Reserve University and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, the study explored the association between semaglutide use and the risk of suicidal ideation. Contrary to anecdotal reports, the findings indicated a significant decrease—ranging from 49% to 73%—in the risk of first-time or recurring suicidal ideations when compared to other medications designed to control obesity and type 2 diabetes through different mechanisms.
The medication, known for its efficacy in regulating appetite and insulin levels by targeting glucagon-like peptide 1 receptors (GLP1R) in the body, appears to be a safer option regarding mental health given the decreased risk of ideation. The study’s outcomes challenge claims made in anecdotal reports suggesting a potential link between semaglutide and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts.
The research, a comprehensive investigation not explored in previous studies, examined electronic health records of 240,618 patients in the United States who were either obese or overweight. These patients, with a mean age of 50 years and 72.6% women, were prescribed either semaglutide or an alternative weight-loss medication between June 2021 and December 2022. A subgroup analysis included 7,847 patients with a prior history of suicidal ideation and 232,771 without such a history. The study’s findings were also replicated in a population of 1,589,855 patients with type 2 diabetes, with an average age of 58 years and 49.2% women, who were prescribed semaglutide or other diabetes medications between December 2017 and May 2021.
The demographic characteristics, medical history, lifestyle problems, and mental and substance use disorders were similarly matched between the semaglutide groups and the non-GLP1R groups in both study populations.
The researchers meticulously tracked the patients’ medical histories six months after the medication prescription. The results revealed that individuals prescribed semaglutide for weight loss exhibited a lower risk of first-time suicidal ideation (0.11%) compared to those prescribed other weight loss medications (0.43%). Additionally, the risk of recurrent suicidal ideation among patients with a prior history was approximately 7% for semaglutide and 14% for the comparison group.
In patients with type 2 diabetes, semaglutide was associated with a 0.13% risk of first-time suicidal ideations and a 10% risk of recurrent ideation. This contrasted with the group prescribed other diabetes medications, which showed a 0.36% risk of first-time ideations and an 18% risk of recurrence. Notably, semaglutide demonstrated decreased risk of first-time suicidal ideation in patients with type 2 diabetes over longer follow-up durations, extending up to three years.
In conclusion, the study’s results refute concerns about an increased suicidal risk associated with semaglutide use. The findings underscore the importance of a more in-depth evaluation of reported cases to date and suggest the need for future studies to explore potential longer-term associations of semaglutide with suicidal ideations in patients with obesity or type 2 diabetes, as well as in other at-risk populations. Further research should also investigate any potential links between semaglutide and suicide attempts.