For two months, Curry took Ozempic, and the medication worked as intended. Yazid has type 2 diabetes, and the weekly injection lowers her blood sugar levels. But it also brought side effects that she considered unbearable, including vomiting, fatigue, headaches, and stomach cramps.
After five weeks of taking the medication, Yazid said, she found herself unable to move from the bathroom floor.
“I vomited so much I didn’t have the energy to get up and was basically lying down,” she said. “I couldn’t even lift my head to vomit into the flint. It was so bad.”
The severe effects Yazid experienced are not uncommon, but people’s experiences of taking Ozempic and its sibling, Wegovy, can vary widely — from dramatic weight loss and minimal discomfort at one end of the spectrum to severe effects. On the other hand.
NBC News spoke to 10 people about their experiences taking these blockbuster drugs, both of which are forms of semaglutide. They’re designed to mimic a hormone that signals the brain when a person is full and promote the release of insulin, a hormone that stops blood sugar from rising. In turn, the drugs can lower blood sugar levels and curb appetite.
Their popularity has skyrocketed over the past year, due in part to the attention of social media and billionaires like Elon Musk touting the weight loss effects of these drugs.
Prescriptions for Ozempic tripled from 2021 to 2022, according to data from the prescription drug discounter, which has more than 5 million members. In the past year, high demand and global supply constraints have led to drug shortages. The Food and Drug Administration reported a shortage of Wegovy in March 2022, followed by a shortage of Ozempic in August.
Many of the people interviewed said that the benefits they got from the medication outweighed the side effects.
said Stacy Bollinger, account manager at Maryland, who reported losing 52 pounds since Wigough’s start. “Something as simple as bending over to tie my shoes is so much easier.”
Some people said they felt fine with the medication. But Yazid and two others described side effects that forced them to stop taking the medications or wonder if they could stay on them for long.
Bariatric experts who prescribe Ozimbik and Wegov said the drugs can transform patients’ lives and health. The effects of weight loss can enable patients to perform activities they previously could not, such as chasing after the grandkids or finding clothes that fit in regular stores. Semaglutide can also treat health problems associated with obesity and diabetes, such as a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
“By treating obesity, you are likely to effectively treat more than 200 other obesity-related or weight-related diseases,” said Dr. Anya Jastrebov, assistant professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. Jastreboff serves on the scientific advisory board for Novo Nordisk, which makes Ozempic and Wegovy.
Accounts for a significant weight loss
The Food and Drug Administration approved Ozempic for people with type 2 diabetes in 2017, and then Wegovy — the same drug, which ramps up to a higher dose — in 2021 for weight loss in adults who are obese or those who are overweight and have at least one weight loss. Related health condition, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol. Ozempic is not approved for weight loss, but doctors sometimes prescribe it off-label for this purpose.
Most people who took Ozempic or Wegovy said it curbed their hunger and reduced cravings for unhealthy food. Bollinger and Randy Lee Harper, a Seattle-area software developer, both report losing more than 50 pounds.
Harper took Ozempic is off-label for weight loss from May through November (paused while moving to Washington state but plans to start over). She said she still enjoyed her favorite foods — like truffle cheese and sour baby candy — but her portions were smaller.
“You don’t realize how focused your life is on food when you’re overweight until you go on a diet that makes you not think about it as much, like on Ozempic,” Harper said.
For the most part, she added, she was responding well to the medication, though she would occasionally burp if she ate too much — a fairly common side effect.
As for Bollinger, she said that in addition to her weight loss, her average blood sugar levels have dropped to the point where she no longer has diabetes.
A study of more than 1,000 people with type 2 diabetes found that semaglutide was more effective than insulin in lowering blood sugar. The participants did not see results from the other antidiabetic medications, which they continued to take during the trial. In another study of nearly 2,000 overweight or obese adults without diabetes, people taking semaglutide lost an average of 34 pounds in less than 16 weeks, compared to 6 pounds among those receiving a placebo.
Dr. C. Nicole Swinner, a family medicine physician in Durham, North Carolina, said she started taking Wegovy in 2021 after noticing how much it was helping her patients. She said she has lost 30 pounds since then.
“Because I’m not starving, I can actually stop and make a smarter decision [rather] Who, my God, am I a predator. Let me fetch whatever is in the office kitchen, which is usually not wanted, Swiner said.
On Wegovy, she added, she eats less overall and has replaced sugary sweets like cookies or cake with healthy alternatives like yogurt or fruit.
For Yazeed, losing weight was not the reason she went to Ozempic, nor was it a goal. But she said that on the drug, she had to force herself to eat, and oftentimes she couldn’t digest anything other than her morning protein shake. On a good day, you might as well tolerate some chicken broth.
I lost 10 pounds in 2 months, and went from a size 12 to a size 8 or 10.
Patients who stop taking medications often regain weight
Like many medications, the effects of semaglutide stop when patients are off it, so some people gain the weight back. The experts said they consider Ozempic and Wegovy to be medicines for life.
“Data from our clinical trials of Wegovy showed, unexpectedly, that patients regain weight once they stop taking the drug,” Novo Nordisk told NBC News in a statement.
“This supports the belief that obesity is a chronic disease that requires long-term management, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, as most patients remain on long-term treatment,” the company added.
Ebony Wiggins, who has type 2 diabetes, said she has regained about 15 pounds of the 25 she lost last year while taking Ozempic.
Artemis Bayandor, who lives in Naperville, Illinois, said she now weighs more than she did when she took Wegovy: Within one month of stopping the drug, she had regained 15 pounds she had lost on the drug, she said, plus an additional 10 pounds. the next six months.
“The first week I was fine, and the second week I was right back to all the cravings, but worse,” Bayandor said.
Side effects prevent some people from taking medications
Kourtney Hamilton hasn’t been on Ozempic for more than a month, which her doctor prescribed off-label because Hamilton has type 1 diabetes, not type 2.
Hamilton said her nausea got so bad she could barely eat, and the foods she could tolerate weren’t particularly healthy.
“Ironically, that made me stick to very starchy foods like potatoes because they are so bland. I ate a lot of that and a lot of plain toast,” she said.
People usually start with a low dose of Ozempic or Wegovy, and then ramp up to reduce side effects. Some of the severe effects may be the result of raising that dose too quickly, said Dr. Fatima Cody-Stanford, assistant clinical professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“If a patient says, ‘Oh my God, I’m sick,’” Stanford said. I can’t even go to work, I’m throwing up all day’, the dose probably isn’t a proper dose for them.
In clinical trials, 73% of adults who took the highest dose of Wegovy reported gastrointestinal problems. Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and stomach pain are the most common. Some people have reported more serious, though rare, side effects such as pancreatitis and kidney failure.
Novo Nordisk said patients who experience nausea as a side effect should contact their healthcare provider for guidance on ways to manage it.
Jastrepov said she encourages her patients to eat smaller, more frequent meals, not to eat past the point of satiety, and to watch for foods that aggravate their symptoms. She added that most side effects occur when people increase their doses, and then subside once they reach the maintenance phase.
Megan Cornelius, who has been taking the off-label drug Ozempic for type 1 diabetes for several years, said she had nausea and fatigue at first but those effects wore off over time.
“As long as I can keep taking it, I probably will,” Cornelius said.
For Eric Joyner Jr., a former type 2 diabetic, Ozempic didn’t do anything beyond its intended effect: improve kidney function—an off-label application for the drug. Najjar developed chronic kidney disease as a byproduct of diabetes.
He said he has not experienced side effects or weight loss from Ozempic, but he understands that this is not true for everyone.
“At the end of the day, it’s a very personal thing,” he said. “Your biology is different from my biological.”
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