Major shortages put those who need it most at real risk.
Ozempic, a medication used to keep blood sugar levels under control, is vital for the millions of people with diabetes. Now, thanks largely to its use by celebrities and influencers, it has gained popularity as a drug for weight loss — a trend that comes with grim side effects for those with a quick fix, and huge risks for people with diabetes who are now in short supply of the drug. . Here’s what happens.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic, the brand name for the drug semaglutide, is a medication mainly used by patients with type 2 diabetes and people who are obese. The drug is vital for diabetics, who take it as a weekly injection, because it increases insulin secretion and blood sugar disposal, which improves blood sugar control. TL; dr – helps them manage their blood sugar levels. Some patients lose weight as a side effect of the drug, which reduces appetite, and slows the passage of food through the intestines, making those who eat it feel fuller for longer.
In 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved semaglutide in higher doses under the brand name Wegovy for chronic weight management in obese adults. People who have been prescribed Wegovy should gradually increase their dose over 16-20 weeks to reduce gastrointestinal side effects. This can include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal (stomach) pain, headache, fatigue, dyspepsia (indigestion), dizziness, flatulence, gastroenteritis (intestinal infection), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (a type of digestive disorder).
So, what caused this latest fuss?
Influencers, celebrities, and even Elon Musk have fined Wegovy as helping with weight loss, which has led to more and more people looking for off-label prescriptions, or chasing them online. Many of these enthusiasts are not obese, and doctors worry that the link between Wegovy and weight loss is causing many to view it as a dieting aid, rather than an important medicine for people with life-threatening conditions.
Its apparent popularity in Hollywood – and growing demand among the rich and famous in general – drives up its drugstore price. It was also popularized on social media, with #Ozempic having over 450 million views on TikTok as people share their weight loss results, and share side effects war stories. As a result of the rush, the FDA has listed both Ozempic and Wegovy as N/A.
The new scarcity of these drugs has dire implications for people with diabetes. Without proper treatment, they risk high blood sugar which can prove very dangerous, even in the short term. They can lead to serious — and potentially fatal — conditions including heart disease, kidney disease, hearing loss, and stroke.
Some have been forced to travel to multiple pharmacies to get their medication – if they can get it at all – or lower their doses to get supplies.
“It makes me really angry; we need it to survive and keep functioning on a daily basis,” Shane Anthony, 57, of Seattle, told NBC.
Even when temporary alternatives to Ozempic are available, switching between medications is a complex possibility. As NBC notes, even if patients are able to go back to Ozempic after a period of taking something else, they will likely endure weeks of grim initial side effects as their bodies adjust to the medication again. This can include nausea, vomiting, constipation, and more.
Is it safe to use Wegovy or Ozempic as an unofficial “diet drug”?
short answer? Mostly not. For a start, once people stop taking Wegovy or Ozempic, they tend to gain any weight they’ve lost back — and then some.
“Data from our clinical trials of Wegovy showed, unexpectedly, that patients regain weight once they stop taking the drug,” Novo Nordisk, the company that makes the drug, told NBC News in a statement.
Weight fluctuations – even if the regained weight does not exceed the lost weight – have a much more detrimental effect on health than maintaining the same weight. Fluctuations back and forth are associated with cardiovascular disease and mortality, and there is evidence that weight fluctuation can harm people’s metabolic health.
Even if people continue to take the drug, it can have annoying and sometimes debilitating side effects. According to clinical trials, 73% of adults who took the highest dose of Wegovy reported gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, constipation, and stomach pain. More rarely, more serious effects include pancreatitis and kidney failure, and it has been suggested that the drugs can lead to pancreatic cancer.