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Users Of Popular Weight Loss Drugs May Contract Rare Blindness, Researchers Warn

In a study published Wednesday, four Massachusetts-based researchers warned that users of drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy, which contain the active ingredient semaglutide, a currently popular weight-loss pill, may be at risk for a rare form of blindness.

Reports from users of semaglutide-containing medications prompted researchers to explore the question of whether use of the drug is associated with the development of non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and those who are overweight or obese. according to the study.

Ozempic has a lower semaglutide content and is specifically designed for people with diabetes, while the latter has a higher semaglutide content and is designed for weight loss. according to UC Davis Health.

The researchers retrospectively analyzed data from 16,827 patients seen by neuro-ophthalmologists at an academic institution between December 1, 2017 and November 30, 2023. Some of the patients had type 2 diabetes, while others were overweight or obese. Some of the patients were taking medications that contained semaglutide, while others were taking medications that did not contain semaglutide, according to the study. None of the patients had a history of NAION.

The researchers compared type 2 diabetes patients taking semaglutide-containing medications with those taking non-semaglutide-containing medications and found that type 2 diabetes patients taking semaglutide-containing medications had a higher risk of developing NAION.They also compared overweight or obese patients taking semaglutide-containing medications with those taking non-semaglutide-containing medications and found that the former group had a higher risk of developing NAION. (RELATED: 'I feel like I'm going to puke': Famous comedian reveals he overdosed on Ozempic)

This study investigated the association between semaglutide and NAION but did not prove that semaglutide use causes NAION. “As this was an observational study, future studies are needed to assess a causal relationship,” the researchers wrote.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Three of the researchers were from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, and one was from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

NAION (damage due to impaired blood flow to the optic nerve) often causes a painless, sudden, and non-progressive loss of vision in one eye that patients notice immediately upon waking in the morning. article Brigham and Women's Hospital explained:

“NAION is a rare disease that affects 2 to 10 people per 100,000 per year.” Invited Commentary states the study by Boston researchers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration statement The company said it was investigating reports of counterfeit Ozempic in the United States, in response to semaglutide being sold illegally online.

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