Ozempic: Weight loss, Side effects, dosage, how it works and More

The drug Ozempic made headlines about the success of those receiving it in losing weight and improving blood sugar control, including a doctor who wrote it for his patients and then used it to lose 12 kilograms. How does this drug work? What is the expected weight loss when using it? Does it have caveats?

Insider met a doctor who said he prescribes Ozempic to patients, noting that he also lost 25 pounds (about 11.5 kilograms) by taking it himself.

What is the drug “Ozempic”?

According to the Drugs website , Ozempic is the trade name for a drug whose scientific name is semaglutide.

What are the uses of Ozempic?

Ozempic use in:

  • Improving blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes.
  • Reducing the risk of major cardiovascular events, such as stroke, heart attack, or death, for adults with type 2 diabetes who also have heart disease.

The use of “Ozempic” should coincide with a balanced diet, as well as exercise.

How does Ozempic work?

Ozempic belongs to a class of medications called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists, which work by binding to GLP-1 receptors, which stimulate the Secretion of insulin from the pancreas when you need insulin.

It also helps reduce the amount of sugar secreted by the liver and slows the exit of food from the stomach. The combination of these effects helps reduce A1C and blood sugar levels, and may also help reduce appetite.

Warnings of using Ozempic

You should not use Ozempic if you have:

  • Allergy to semaglutide or any other ingredients in this medication.
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2.
  • A personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma.

In animal studies, this drug caused thyroid tumors or thyroid cancer. It is not known whether these effects will occur in those who take it, so you should ask 

Can pregnant women take Ozempic?

The answer is no. It is recommend to discontinue the use of this medication at least 2 months before planning pregnancy. Consult with your doctor regarding a safer alternative during this period. It is crucial to effectively manage diabetes during pregnancy, along with maintaining a healthy weight. It is important to note that losing weight while pregnant may pose risks to the unborn baby.

How is Ozempic given?

Ozempic is given as an injection under the skin once a week, at any time of the day, with or without food. Use the injection on the same day every week.

Ozempic injection pen contains more than one dose. After first use, store the pen with the needle removed in the refrigerator or at room temperature, and keep it away from heat and light. Throw away the pen 56 days after first use, or if less than 0.25 mg appears on the dose counter.

Ozempic dosage

After consulting your doctor, start using Ozempic with an injection of 0.25 mg under the skin once a week for 4 weeks. The 0.25 mg dose intended for starting treatment and is ineffective for blood sugar control.

After 4 weeks of the 0.25 mg dose, increase the dose to 0.5 mg once weekly.

If additional blood sugar control is need, after at least 4 weeks the 0.5 mg dose maybe increased to 1 mg once weekly.

If blood sugar control is require after a minimum of 4 weeks on the 1 mg dose, the dosage may be escalated to 2 mg once per week. The highest recommended dosage is 2 mg once weekly.

Side effects of Ozempic

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction, such as:

  • Itching.
  • Dizziness.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat.
  • Unusual mood changes.
  • Thoughts about hurting yourself.
  • Vision changes.
  • Palpitations or fluttering in the chest.
  • Swelling or lump in your neck.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • hoarse voice.
  • Feeling short of breath.
  • Severe pain in your upper stomach spreads to your back.
  • Nausea with or without vomiting.
  • Pain in the upper part of the stomach.
  • Fever.
  • Clay-colored stools.

Ozempic may cause other serious side effects, so call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

Is Ozempic an approved drug for weight loss?

Although Ozempic leads to weight loss, it has not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss.

Writer Alyssa Northrup says – in a report published by Forbes magazine – that although Ozempic is not an official weight loss drug, research indicates that those who take it may lose an amount of weight while taking the drug.

But in contrast, the active ingredient in Ozempic, known as semaglutide, has approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in higher doses to treat individuals suffering from obesity and other weight-related medical problems under the name “Wegovy.”

Is insulin the same as Ozempic?

Ozempic and insulin are not the same thing, but Ozempic helps the pancreas produce more insulin when your blood sugar is high.

Unlike insulin, Ozempic rarely causes low blood sugar, says Dr. Lydia Alexander in California.

While Ozempic is not specifically classified as a weight-loss drug, studies sponsored by Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Ozempic, indicate that those taking semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic, may lose weight.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved semaglutide for weight loss in 2021 under the trade name “Wegovy”.

However, Wegovi provides a higher dose of semaglutide compared to Ozempic.

Wegovi contains 2.4 mg of semaglutide, compared to 0.5 mg, 1 mg, or 2 mg of semaglutide in Ozempic.

Ozempic works through two main mechanisms:

  • It affects the hunger centers in the brain (specifically, the hypothalamus), reducing hunger, appetite, and cravings.
  • Slows the rate of gastric emptying, effectively prolonging satiety.

How much can you expect to lose while using Ozempic?

In one large clinical trial sponsored by Novo Nordisk, 1,961 overweight or obese adults who did not have diabetes were given 2.4 milligrams of semaglutide or a placebo once a week for 68 weeks, along with a lifestyle intervention. Those who took semaglutide lost 14.9% of their body weight, compared to 2.4% for those who took the placebo.

It is important to note that the dose of semaglutide used in this study was higher than the dose provided by Ozempic.

In conclusion, Ozempic approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of diabetes only, and is not a weight-loss drug, according to Dr. Christopher McGowan.

Do you maintain your weight after using Ozempic?

Although semaglutide can aid in weight loss, it’s important to note that discontinuing its use often leads to significant weight regain. Dr. Rekha Kumar, the chief medical officer of the Evidence-Based Weight Care Program and an endocrinologist at a renowned medical center in New York City, highlights studies indicating that stopping Ozempic completely typically results in regaining most of the lost weight within a few months.

Dr. McGowen advises people with type 2 diabetes, especially those who are overweight or obese, to consult their doctor to see if Ozempic is suitable to help them control blood sugar and lose weight.

He adds, “For basic treatment of obesity, WeGovey is also an excellent option for any patient who is experiencing weight loss through diet and exercise alone, has a BMI of 30 and above (or 27 and above with obesity-related comorbidities), and is on the “Willing to use an injection once a week long term.”

Dr. McGowan does not recommend using Ozempic for short-term “cosmetic” weight loss. Although this receive a lot of attention in the media, Ozempic and related GLP-1 drugs are not designed to be used in this way, and can lead to potential adverse events, and eventually the weight lost will be regained.

In addition, anyone with contraindications such as a history of medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine adenomas, or a history of pancreatitis should not use Ozempic.

The high demand on TikTok for Ozempic is worrying doctors

In February 2023, a report from Agence France-Presse revealed that the keyword “Ozempic” had garnered over 500 million views on the TikTok network. The unprecedented demand for this diabetes drug as a weight loss solution resulted in its scarcity in the market, which raised concerns among doctors.

An American TikTok user said in a video clip that viewed about 100,000 times, “I started taking Ozempic 6 weeks ago.”

The young woman – who looked much thinner in her sportswear than she did in her previous photos – added, “I didn’t do any exercise, I just injected myself with this product.”

Fake recipes

In France, at the end of last December, the Supreme Authority for Health expressed a positive opinion on the use of “Wegovi” to treat obesity, and this is currently limited to those suffering from excessive obesity and diseases related to it.

An Agence France-Presse report – in February 2023 – said that while awaiting a decision from the authorities regarding the price of “Wegovi” and the method of collecting its price from Social Security, its administration is still limited, unlike “Ozempic”, which is available “with a regular medical prescription,” according to what the professor noted. Jean-Luc Faillet of the University of Montpellier.

Faye pointed out that “pharmacists received prescriptions” for “Ozempic” for people who did not have diabetes, as well as “fake prescriptions used by more than one person.”

In turn, the National Medicines Authority alerted doctors that the patient must meet the condition of having diabetes to prescribe this drug to him. Although the Authority did not notice any “sudden increase in consumption in recent months,” a shortage was recorded in the available quantities of “Ozempic” due to the increase in global demand.

side effects

Doctors also expressed concern about the side effects of semaglutide, and Professor Faye said that in addition to nausea, “there are also rare but more serious risks, such as acute pancreatitis that can occur even if the doses are low, biliary disorders, and rare cases of severe constipation.” Which can lead to intestinal obstruction,” and he reported “a greater risk of developing thyroid cancer” after several years of treatment.

Despite the “controlled” risks associated with semaglutide and its effectiveness in managing diabetes, doubts persist, particularly regarding long-term use in overweight patients. Professor Faye emphasizes that the therapeutic value of using it for weight loss is nonexistent. In this case, the goal is merely cosmetic, while the risks remain.

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