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Semaglutide – widely known as Ozempic/Wegovy – does not negatively impact brain health and is associated with lower risk of cognitive problems and less nicotine dependence, according to a new study.

Box of four semaglutide injections © Shutterstock

The analysis, conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford and supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre and the Medical Research Council, revealed that taking the drug, a popular medication for type II diabetes, had no increased risk of adverse neurological or psychiatric outcomes compared to other antidiabetic medications, challenging recent concerns about the drug's safety.

The comprehensive analysis, published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, used more than 100 million patient records in the USA including over 20,000 who were taking semaglutide. It found that semaglutide:

  • Was not associated with an increased risk of neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as dementia, depression, or anxiety, compared to other common anti-diabetic medications.
  • Was associated with a lower risk of cognitive problems and nicotine dependence

Dr Riccardo De Giorgi, Clinical Lecturer at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study, said:

Our results suggest that semaglutide use could extend beyond managing diabetes, potentially offering unexpected benefits in the treatment and prevention of cognitive decline and substance misuse.

The findings of our study therefore not only help reassure the millions of patients relying on semaglutide for diabetes management, but, if confirmed, might also have significant implications for public health in terms of reducing cognitive deficit and smoking rates among patients with diabetes.”

While the study’s robust methodology and extensive data provide strong evidence, researchers say further investigation is needed and that it remains unclear how semaglutide may be having these effects.

“Our study is observational and these results should therefore be replicated in a randomised controlled trial to confirm and extend our findings,” said Dr Max Taquet, Clinical Lecturer at the University of Oxford and senior author of the study. “Nevertheless, they are good news for patients with psychiatric disorders, who are at an increased risk of diabetes.”

Dr De Giorgi adds that while semaglutide is also used in people with obesity, with some diabetes patients also presenting with a higher weight, the findings from this study cannot be applied to people who do not have diabetes.


Please follow the link below to read the news on the NIHR BRC website.