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European Medicines Agency to discuss anaesthesia risk for weight-loss drugs

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will assess the risk that patients on weight loss drugs such as semaglutide and tirzepatide may suffer certain complications under anaesthesia. The EMA’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) that monitors side effects of pharmaceuticals, will examine a "signal of aspiration and pneumonia aspiration" associated with GLP-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 ra).

The move follows a June 2023 announcement by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) that suggested withholding GLP-1 ra before elective surgery to reduce the risk of complications associated with anaesthesia in adults and children. GLP-1 ra medications are used for weight loss, as they delay gastric (stomach) emptying, decreasing hunger and reducing how much people eat. However, delaying stomach emptying could be associated with an increased risk of regurgitation and aspiration of food into the airways and lungs during general anaesthesia and deep sedation.


The EMA has previously announced it is investigating GLP-1 drugs after Iceland's health regulator highlighted three cases of patients thinking about suicide or self-harm. The UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency began a similar investigation into Ozempic, Wegovy, Saxenda, Bydureon, Trulicity and Lyxumia, to assess suicidal thoughts and self-injury in people who took GLP-1 drugs.

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