Study Reveals Risk of Rare Eye Disease from Weight Loss Drug

Study Reveals Risk of Rare Eye Disease from Weight Loss Drug

Gabriela Santos
2 min read

Novo Nordisk Investigates Potential Risk of Vision Loss in Weight Loss Drugs

Novo Nordisk is under scrutiny following a Harvard Medical School study that suggests a possible association between the weight loss drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, which contain semaglutide, and an elevated risk of non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), a rare eye condition that can lead to vision loss in one eye. Although this revelation may raise concerns, the impact on Novo Nordisk's market performance appears to be minimal, with the company's shares experiencing only a slight dip followed by a prompt recovery. Analysts from Deutsche Bank have expressed skepticism regarding the strength of the evidence linking semaglutide to NAION, indicating that the potential consequences might be limited to updates on drug labels, which is not expected to have a substantial impact.

Novo Nordisk has acknowledged the significance of the study's limitations, such as the relatively small sample size, while also addressing the absence of NAION as a listed side effect on their drug labels. Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that these weight loss drugs have gained widespread popularity, contributing to Novo Nordisk's status as the most valuable company in Europe. Despite the positive developments related to the FDA approval of Wegovy for reducing heart disease risk in addition to its weight loss and blood sugar regulatory benefits, the drugs have been associated with adverse effects such as stomach issues and even suicidal ideation among some users.

Key Takeaways

  • Novo Nordisk's market resilience in the face of the semaglutide-NAION connection signals limited financial impact.
  • The potential repercussions of the Harvard study are mitigated by weak evidence and Novo Nordisk's steadfast market position.
  • Patient safety measures and label adjustments are probable in the short term, with ongoing research and regulatory assessments likely to influence the drugs' trajectory in the long run.


The stability of Novo Nordisk's market performance amidst the concerns raised by the semaglutide-NAION association suggests that the company may navigate potential challenges without substantial financial upheaval. The projected label updates and emphasis on patient safety, along with the inherent limitations of the study, are anticipated to shape the near-term landscape, while sustained scrutiny and further research hold significance for the long-term trajectory of the drugs and Novo Nordisk's standing in the pharmaceutical sector.

Did You Know?

  • Semaglutide:
    • Initially designed for managing type 2 diabetes, semaglutide has demonstrated effectiveness in weight loss and reducing the risk of major cardiovascular events. Its mechanism involves mimicking the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) to suppress appetite and food intake.
  • NAION (Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy):
    • This condition leads to sudden vision loss due to inadequate blood flow to the optic nerve, predominantly affecting adults over 50. Risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, and specific eye characteristics.
  • Wegovy:
    • An FDA-approved drug, Wegovy, containing semaglutide, is specifically indicated for chronic weight management, contributing to the reduction of major cardiovascular events in individuals with type 2 diabetes and established cardiovascular disease.

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