Anesthesia: The serious risk threatening those taking obesity drugs


The European Union requests additional information on the risks of anesthesia in people taking anti-obesity and anti-diabetic drugs due to the possibility of gastroparesis and aspiration.

New research noted more significant risks with anesthesia administration in surgical procedures for people taking known drugs for managing diabetes or obesity. According to a Bloomberg report, European authorities have asked four companies, including Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly & Co., to provide more information on the issue.

The relevant request from the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) was already submitted in September 2023 following guidelines issued by the American Society of Anesthesiologists in June 2023, which stated: "While there is currently a lack of scientific data on how GLP-1 receptor agonists affect patients having surgery and interact with anesthesia, we’ve received anecdotal reports that the delay in stomach emptying could be associated with an increased risk of regurgitation and aspiration of food into the airways and lungs during general anesthesia and deep sedation."

The reports were related to gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea or vomiting and an increased risk of residual gastric contents in patients receiving GLP-1 agonists. At the same time, the Society suggests stopping the medication on the day of surgery for those who take it daily and one week before scheduled surgery for those receiving it weekly.

For the day of surgery, the guidelines for healthcare professionals suggest delaying surgery in patients with gastrointestinal issues such as severe nausea/vomiting/distention, abdominal distension, or abdominal pain.

It is recalled that gastroparesis, as an adverse effect of these drugs, was recently highlighted through research in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The findings included additional possible side effects such as pancreatitis and intestinal obstruction.

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