Why the Viral Trend of Using Diabetes Drug Ozempic for Weight Loss Is Problematic – Verywell Health

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Celebrities and influencers are vying for a type 2 diabetes drug—Ozempic (semaglutide)—as a quick fix for weight loss, even though they may not have the medical needs for it. The hastag #OzempicWeightLoss now has over 84 million views on TikTok, with many of the videos speculating that Kim Kardashian has used Ozempic.
And the weight loss frenzy has led to a supply shortage of Ozempic.
Earlier this month, Elon Musk said on Twitter that his secret to weight loss is fasting and Wegovy, another diabetes drug that contains semaglutide—the same active ingredient used in Ozempic. Wegovy is FDA-approved for weight loss in people with obesity and it’s also currently in shortage.
This obsession over miracle weight loss drugs is not new. In the 1990s, many celebrities also went after fen-phen, an appetite suppressant that was removed from the market due to its association with heart problems, according to Steven Heymsfield, MD, a professor whose research focuses on obesity and weight loss treatment at Pennington Biomedical Research Center
“The fact that celebrities are jumping on it is totally consistent with the behavior we've seen with past drugs,” Heymsfield told Verywell. “These drugs run in fads. The latest and the greatest is semaglutide."
Semaglutide is in a class of drugs known as GLP-1 receptor agonists. These drugs are developed for type 2 diabetes treatment by promoting insulin production and lowering blood sugar levels after a meal. 
When GLP-1 receptor agonists are administered, they send a suppressing signal to the hypothalamus of the brain that regulates appetite. These drugs are also known to have potential side effects like nausea and diarrhea.
The medications can also change one’s food preferences, which may make processed foods less appealing, according to David C. W. Lau, MD, PhD, director of the Julia McFarlane Diabetes Research Centre at the University of Calgary.
Ozempic is only approved for diabetes treatment, not weight loss. However, the FDA approved Wegovy for chronic weight management in 2021 after clinical trial data showed that the drug significantly reduced weight in adults with obesity compared to those who received a placebo.
Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Wegovy and Ozempic, recently released updated findings that showed a 12.6% difference in weight loss over 104 weeks for people who had a weekly injection of semaglutide 2.4mg.
Lau said that these clinical trials showed that Wegovy is a "very powerful weight loss medication," but he warned against thinking of this drug as a "magic bullet."
"We have to understand that obesity is a chronic disease and should not be considered merely as a body image issue," Lau said. "And many people think that if 'I take the medication to lose a few pounds, I can stop after that.'"
Once patients stop taking Wegovy, Lau added, they're likely to see weight gain again.

According to Heymsfield, providers generally prescribe a low-dose injection for four weeks before moving to the full dose to reduce the risks of severe gastrointestinal side effects.
"Semaglutide is not a drug that causes rapid weight loss," Heymsfield said. "If you're ready to go on 'Dancing with the Stars' or something next week, this is not a drug that you want to take."
The drugs also come at a high price. Before insurance, Wegovy costs about $1,350 for a month’s supply and Ozempic is around $900. Since Ozempic is not approved for weight loss, this drug may not be covered by insurance for someone without diabetes.
Heymsfield and Lau both said Wegovy could be a safe and effective chronic weight management tool, but it's not the best option for someone looking for a quick fix.

Both Ozempic and Wegovy may increase the risks of thyroid tumors or cancer. The effects of these medications are unknown for people with pancreatitis. Talk to your trusted healthcare provider about your risks before starting either of these medications.
Food and Drug Administration. FDA Drug Shortages.
Kushner RF, Calanna S, Davies M, et al. Semaglutide 2. 4 mg for the treatment of obesity: key elements of the step trials 1 to 5Obesity (Silver Spring). 2020;28(6):1050-1061. doi:10.1002/oby.22794
Garvey WT, Batterham RL, Bhatta M, et al. Two-year effects of semaglutide in adults with overweight or obesity: the STEP 5 trialNat Med. 2022;28(10):2083-2091. doi:10.1038/s41591-022-02026-4

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