Ozempic, Wegovy may be linked to increased risk of condition that causes blindness, new study shows

The potential link to nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy was discovered after analysis of nearly six years of data.
Posted at 8:43 PM, Jul 03, 2024

People who take semaglutide prescriptions like Ozempic and Wegovy may be at an increased risk of developing a condition that can lead to permanent blindness, a new study found.

The condition, nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, occurs when the blood supply to the optic nerve, which carries visual signals from your retina to your brain and allows you to see, is reduced or blocked, leading to irreversible vision issues or loss.

In their study, published Wednesday in JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers said “anecdotal experience raised the possibility” that semaglutide — the ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy — could be associated with developing the disease.

To test the hypothesis, they analyzed 16,827 patients over nearly six years, none of whom had the eye condition. They compared certain subgroups — those who were overweight, obese, or had diabetes — and the frequency of developing NAION in those who were and weren’t prescribed semaglutide.

The results showed those with diabetes who took semaglutide were more than four times more likely to develop the eye condition than those who weren’t taking it, and those with obesity saw a rate seven times higher.

The researchers state future studies must be done to conclude a definitive link but that the findings should be viewed as "significant."

Related: So, you've lost weight using Wegovy. Does that mean you can stop taking it?

In a statement to The Hill, Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic and Wegovy, said it takes all reports about adverse effects from its medications seriously, but that NAION isn't "an adverse drug reaction for the marketed formulations of semaglutide … as per the approved labels."

Ozempic is currently FDA-approved to treat Type 2 diabetes and lower certain patients' cardiovascular risk, while Wegovy is FDA-approved for weight loss. Yet both have become increasingly popular in recent years for the latter reason.

As for NAION, people with Type 2 diabetes are already at an increased risk of developing the disease, as are those who smoke or have hypertension or high cholesterol.