There’s a new weight loss craze spreading on social media. People are claiming that the drugs Ozempic and Wegovy are causing them to shed pounds fast. While it’s true that both medications can make you lose weight, it’s not wise to run to your nearest pharmacy. Here’s why.
They are designed to treat specific health conditions
Ozempic and Wegovy are the same drug, but they are FDA-approved and prescribed for different conditions. Ozempic is used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, while Wegovy is prescribed for weight loss in patients who are obese. The medication helps the pancreas produce more insulin to help lower blood sugar while it works in the brain to induce the sensation of fullness. This causes you to eat less or smaller portions.
“What my patients describe to me when they take this medication is that they start eating and feel very, very full—much faster than before using the medication,” says Juliana Simonetti, MD, co-director of the Weight Management Program at University of Utah Health.
The result of taking the medication is better control of blood sugar levels and diabetes, while also helping with weight loss.
A prescription is needed
A physician or health care provider must prescribe Ozempic and Wegovy. Before taking the medication, it’s important to discuss with your provider:
- Risks and benefits of the medication
- Potential side effects
- Other health conditions
“Although these medications work very well for weight loss, they can be very expensive, and many insurances may not cover them,” Simonetti says. “It’s important to know that there are other medications and treatment options that can help someone with weight loss that might be a better option for the patient.” Work with your health care provider in deciding what the best option is for you.
Treatments are individualized
Weight loss treatment options are individualized and depend on how much weight someone needs to lose and whether there are other health conditions to consider.
For example, a patient’s underlying physiology is a common contributing factor to weight gain. A provider can help identify some of these factors and tailor medication recommendations accordingly. In addition, there are other tools that may help with someone’s weight loss journey, such as improving sleep, diet, and physical activity.
“Medications certainly help, but they aren’t the solution for everything,” Simonetti says. “There are additional tools to help you be successful by addressing the underlying physiology that makes it hard to lose weight.”
Side effects can occur
According to Simonetti, nausea is the most common complaint among her patients. This is most common when a patient is starting a medication or when changing the dosage. However, this side effect tends to improve as they get used to taking the medication.
Other side effects include:
- Gastric reflux
- Pancreatitis, although very rare
Social media crazes, like the current frenzy around Ozempic and Wegovy, can interrupt the supply chain and cause drug shortages due to higher demand. Because Ozempic is being marketed as a weight loss drug—and not as a diabetic treatment—it has caused a temporary shortage.
“The key factor here is that this is not the only treatment for weight loss,” Simonetti says. “There are many other tools and medications that can be prescribed for patients to help with weight loss.”