When Elon Musk was asked on Twitter how he had lost weight, he at first responded: “Fasting.” A follow-up tweet added “And Wegovy.” That set off a firestorm of controversy around the Wegovy weight loss medication. It also created shortages. The active ingredient semaglutide is found in both Wegovy and the injectable diabetes drug Ozempic. The latest update from the FDA (FDA Drug Shortages) reports that both Wegovy and Ozempic are “Currently in Shortage.”
The Weight Loss Merry-Go-Round:
Americans are obsessed with weight loss. Diets come and diets go. Lots of people would like a quick, easy way to shed pounds.
Here are just a few of America’s favorites:
- Atkins Diet
- Zone Diet
- Ornish Diet
- South Beach Diet
- Keto Kiet
- Paleo Diet
And that’s just for starters. There are so many more, but they all require some effort. Many Americans prefer effortless weight loss. That is why the idea of Wegovy weight loss is so appealing.
Where Did the Wegovy Weight Loss Drug Come From?
The FDA approved semaglutide (Ozempic) to treat type 2 diabetes in 2017. On June 4, 2021, the agency approved the same injectable medication (semaglutide) under the name Wegovy.
This once-weekly shot is:
“…for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition (such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol), for use in addition to a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity.”
Did you read that last phrase? The official prescribing information states quite clearly that:
“WEGOVY is indicated as an adjunct to a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity for chronic weight management in adults” who have a high body mass index (BMI).
The Quest for Quick Weight Loss:
A lot of people who are not obese have been captivated by social media accounts of quick, effortless weight loss.
The FDA states that semaglutide:
“works by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake.”
Most people have no idea what glucagon-like peptide-1 is and could care less. What they do care about is shedding pounds and a Wegovy weight loss strategy has struck a chord.
The CBS TV station in Baltimore did a nice job describing the Tik Tok trend at this link. Messages on social media and various articles online and in newspapers have led to shortages of both Wegovy for weight loss and Ozempic for managing diabetes.
Semaglutide Side Effects:
Despite Elon Musk’s apparent endorsement, semaglutide can cause significant side effects for some people. Readers have offered their experience at this link.
One person wrote:
“I tried Ozempic for my type 2 diabetes and was incredibly sick for three months. I missed weeks at work and felt utterly hopeless while the ‘intestinal apocalypse’ wreaked havoc on life.”
Another reader also complained of severe GI side effects:
“I was on Ozempic for two years. I am very obese, with a BMI of nearly 50. I lost 60 pounds on the drug because it made me feel full and I didn’t think about food as much.
“I stopped taking it because the Intestinal Apocalypse became too intense. At first it was every four to six months. The final straw was twice in one month. This involved sitting on the toilet with diarrhea and puking into the bathroom trash can. It was utterly miserable. I missed about 10 days of work and wound up in the ER for fluids.”
Some people have reported a completely different digestive side effect with semaglutide. Instead of diarrhea, they experience severe constipation. The FDA also warns about the possibility of pancreatitis or thyroid cancer (medullary thyroid carcinoma).
Semaglutide Success Stories:
Nonetheless, many people who have tried Wegovy or Ozempic are pleased with the results.
Here is one reader’s experience:
“I’ve been taking Ozempic for ten months now and have lost 50 pounds. My HbA1c is 5, and consequently my doctor says that my type 2 diabetes is in remission. The only problem has been occasional nausea. I guess I am one of the lucky ones.”
Another person was also satisfied:
“I’ve been on Ozempic 0.5 mg for four months with minimal side effects. I initially lost 18 pounds the first month due to a lack of appetite but since then the weight loss ceased. The drug has helped manage my blood sugar as long as I watch what I eat. I had to get off metformin as it caused uncontrollable diarrhea and I was afraid to leave the house. Overall, I’m much better off with Ozempic for my diabetes.”
Under either name, semaglutide can be pricey. Insurance plans differ in coverage. According to GoodRx, the list price for a month’s supply of a Wegovy weight loss strategy is over $1500. For Ozempic, GoodRx suggests a retail price of just over $1,000.
Final Words from The People’s Pharmacy:
I have been spanked by people on all sides of the Wegovy weight loss discussion.
A pharmacist called me a:
“disgrace if you recommend any of these medications for treating obesity. You should hang your head in shame. Sickening that you would stoop to this level.”
He was referring to this article in which I described the pros and cons of semaglutide.
The same article drew this opposite response from Linda:
“I feel this article is overly negative and doesn’t point out the benefits to people decreasing their obesity. First, the FDA would not have approved this medication if it did not have a benefit. Second, all medications have side effects. Look at Ibuprofen for example.
“Remember, obesity is a killer. With COVID around now, being obese is especially dangerous. I lost 23 pounds on my own with Noom, a psychology based program, but got stuck and frustrated. I started to gain it back.
“My doctor suggested semaglutide and I have lost another 20 pounds on it. I have high blood pressure and mild obesity so I qualified for the medication. I had some mild nausea at first, but it has gone away. I check in with my doctor weekly and will start titration of the medication in a month. I am almost to a healthy BMI.
“I can now walk without pain. I exercise twice a week with a trainer with weights and hit the gym for cardio another two to three days a week. Then I walk my dog daily. This medication has helped me get my life back.
“Since we are titrating off the medication and I am exercising regularly, I am hopeful that I won’t gain all the weight back. With this one doctor she has told me that most of her patients have NOT gained back the weight. I can only do my best by counting my calories, watching my nutrition, and keeping up with an active lifestyle. At 61, I am feeling better than I have in years.”
Rosemary came to my defense:
“I cannot believe that people are attacking you for this article. Thank you, Joe, for giving your readers this information. Don’t be sad about those people. I find it interesting that almost all weight loss products have, in very tiny print, to be used with diet and exercise.”
We are neither proponents of using a Wegovy weight loss strategy nor opponents of Wegovy for weight loss. We believe in providing people the information they need to make informed decisions.
For some, the potential risk of pancreatitis or thyroid cancer is enough of a deterrent to say no thanks. Others worry about side effects such as gallbladder disease, kidney injury, low blood sugar and rapid heart rate linked to semaglutide. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are also strong disincentives.
On the other hand, many people, especially those with type 2 diabetes, have been struggling with obesity for years. If they can control both blood sugar and overweight without experiencing serious adverse reactions, who are we to say that’s a bad idea?
Every medication represents a balancing act between a positive or negative outcome. Being informed is your best way to assess which way the balance tilts.