Ozempic, a drug FDA recently approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, has become very popular not because of how good it is in treating diabetes, but because of how good it is in causing weight loss. Go to social media platforms like Tiktok and Instagram, and you’ll see numerous videos of influencers, celebrities, and beauty/wellness clinics promoting Ozempic as the latest weight loss miracle drug. Is it, though? In this article, I’ll tell you all you need to know about Ozempic, and why everyone should be concerned about the off-label use of this drug. So let’s begin!
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is the generic name of the drug semaglutide. Semaglutide is a compound that helps to control the glycemic (blood sugar) levels in people with type 2 diabetes. One of the side effects of this action is weight loss, which is beneficial for type 2 diabetes patients.
In 2017, the FDA approved Ozempic as an adjunct to diet and exercise for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Then on June 4, 2021, FDA approved Wegovy – a drug with a higher dosage of semaglutide – for the treatment of morbid obesity. Specifically, FDA approved Wegovy for “patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 kg/m2 or greater who have at least one weight-related ailment or in patients with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or greater.”
Ozempic is available as an injection pen and is administered subcutaneously (it is injected under the skin). The recommended starting dose is 0.25mg once a week, with the maximum adjusted dosage being 1 mg once a week.
How Ozempic Works
Semaglutide, the active substance in Ozempic and Wegovy, is a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. In simpler terms, semaglutide mimics the hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which is secreted by the small intestine. GLP-1 receptors are present in the gut, pancreas, brainstem, hypothalamus, and the afferent part of the vagus nerve. By binding to these receptors, GLP-1 causes the release of insulin, while blocking the release of glucagon (which increases blood sugar levels), suppressing appetite, and reducing hunger. Semaglutide binds to the same receptors, eliciting similar effects.
In summary, Ozempic works by releasing insulin into the bloodstream while blocking glucagon, suppressing appetite, and reducing hunger. This causes a decrease in blood sugar levels and less food consumed, leading to type-2 diabetes reversal and weight loss as a pleasant side effect.
Are There Any Side Effects of Ozempic?
According to the FDA, the most reported side effects of Ozempic are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation. At first glance, one may be tempted to think that the side effects are not that serious. But according to the New York Times, there have been reports of severe cases of side effects that led to ER visits and even discontinuation of the drug.
Ozempic can also increase the risk of developing pancreatitis. So far, however, Ozempic-induced pancreatitis has only been seen during clinical trials.
Ozempic has also been linked with an increased risk of developing thyroid tumors. However, the FDA reports that this finding is only preliminary and Ozempic causing thyroid tumors in humans has not been established.
Who Should Take Ozempic and Wegovy?
As I have mentioned earlier, Ozempic is indicated for adults with type 2 diabetes. Its safety and efficacy in patients less than 18 years old have not been established.
As for Wegovy, it is indicated for adults with morbid obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. Essentially, this means that Ozempic and Wegovy are not meant for otherwise healthy people who want to lose a few pounds of fat.
Now about that…
Who Should NOT Use Ozempic or Wegovy?
You should NOT use Ozempic if:
- You don’t have type 2 diabetes
- You have an allergic reaction while using the medication
- You have a family history of thyroid tumors/thyroid cancer
- You have pancreatitis
You should NOT use Wegovy if:
- You are healthy
- You are overweight but don’t have any weight-related medical condition
Where Can I get Ozempic?
Ozempic and Wegovy are NOT over-the-counter drugs and so you’ll need a doctor’s prescription in order to use them. I strongly advise against buying the drug online as one orders stuff from Amazon, as scammers will definitely take advantage of the weight-loss benefits of Ozempic to sell fake versions of it. Ozempic and Wegovy are not cheap drugs (cost around $900 and $1300 per month respectively) and people in the U.S. will most likely need their insurance to pay for them. So be very skeptical when you start seeing people or vendors online advertising the drugs at an unbelievably affordable rate.
Why Using Ozempic for Weight Loss is Dangerous
As I mentioned earlier, Ozempic was approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in 2017. But after its counterpart Wegovy was approved for weight loss in 2021, word started spreading among Hollywood celebrities about how good the drug was in causing weight loss. Things started heating up when billionaire Elon Musk revealed that he takes Wegovy in addition to fasting to be in shape. Soon after, the hashtag #Ozempic became very popular on Tiktok, with over 313 million views at the time of writing this article. Some hospitals and beauty spas in not just the USA, but other countries like Brazil and Nigeria are already openly promoting Ozempic as a weight loss drug. As a result, FDA has placed both Ozempic and Wegovy on the list of drugs currently in short supply.
Now while off-label use of drugs in medical practice is nothing new, the case of Ozempic is particularly unique because it is driven by viral trends on social media. This fact has made many medical professionals, including myself, uncomfortable because as internet history has shown us time and time again, viral medical trends almost always end in disaster. So why do I think using Ozempic for weight loss is dangerous?
- The Safety of Ozempic use by healthy people has NOT been established. The main people driving the Ozempic trend on social media are mostly celebrities and online influencers who are otherwise healthy but are obsessed with their body image. Ozempic was made specifically for people with type 2 diabetes, meaning that the drug isn’t intended for otherwise healthy people who just want to lose a few pounds.
- The side effects could be more pronounced. Ozempic, being a diabetes drug, lowers blood sugar levels, which is dangerous for healthy people. Diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting can also be more severe, leading to ER visits and even hospitalization.
- It can lead to unhealthy weight loss. Ozempic and Wegovy are indicated for use in combination with diet and exercise. However, we all know that there is a high risk of users of these drugs abandoning the diet and exercise part once they notice that they lost weight by just taking the drugs. This risk is especially higher with otherwise healthy people who take the drug for vanity (medically unnecessary) purposes. This can cause rebound weight gain once the drug is stopped, leading to a vicious cycle of drug-dependent weight loss and the accompanying dangers (eating disorders, low blood sugar, etc)
Ozempic is a drug meant for type 2 diabetes patients. However, these patients are having a difficult time finding this drug because its newfound status as a weight loss drug has severely depleted its limited supply. It is important to understand that Ozempic is not a miracle weight loss drug and its social media-driven popularity for this purpose can be dangerous in the long term. If you want to lose weight, stick to the traditional, time-tested lifestyle of eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly. Most people don’t need drugs to lose weight, and drug-induced weight loss is not a lasting solution.