Should You Take Diabetes Drug Ozempic for Weight Loss?

Improper use of the drug has led to a shortage.

December 07, 2022

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Photo by: Milos Dimic/Getty Images

Milos Dimic/Getty Images

Off-label use of the popular diabetes drug Ozempic has led to a social media boom of people seeking this drug to help them lose weight. The massive appeal has triggered a shortage of the drug. Here’s what you need to know before you consider taking it.

What Is Ozempic?

Ozempic is an injectable prescription medication administered once a week to help reduce high blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. This drug received FDA approval in 2017 for diabetes treatment. It appears that weight loss is a secondary effect of taking this drug, meaning some people that took the drug also lost weight, but that is not what it was created to do. In 2021, the FDA approved a weight loss drug called Wegovy, containing higher amounts of the same active ingredient as Ozempic (semaglutide) specifically for weight loss. According to the FDA, both these drugs are currently in short supply. The FDA website states Wegovy shortage is due to “Requirements related to complying with good manufacturing practices.”

Common side effects of Ozempic include gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation. Other possible side effects include pancreatitis, changes in vision, low blood sugar, kidney failure and gallbladder issues. The drug is also contraindicated for people who have suffered from medullary thyroid cancer or certain endocrine disorders. Complete information on risks and side effects can be found in its medication guide.

Since Wegovy is a higher dose of semaglutide it carries additional risks including more severe stomach issues as well as possible incidence of increased heart rate, depression and thoughts of suicide. Additional details on this drug can be found via Wegovy’s medication guide.

Why Are People Obsessed With Ozempic and Weight Loss?

The power of social media has driven the craze behind taking Ozempic for weight loss. Rumors have swirled of celebrities taking the drug and countless other accounts are flashing selfies touting weight loss. Despite what glossy posts may imply, there is minimal reliable scientific evidence to support the efficacy or safety of using this drug for weight loss.

A study published in 2021 found that overweight and obese patients without diabetes given semaglutide along with diet and lifestyle changes lost more weight the control group – but this study was funded by the drug manufacturer, as is one previous study with similar results published in 2018.

Bottom Line: There is no magic pill (or injection) for weight loss. Use or abuse of diabetes medications for weight loss have not been properly evaluated for long term use and therefore may pose unforeseen dangers. Furthermore, using this drug for purposes other than type 2 diabetes may be taking it away from the patients who it is intended for.

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