Ozempic (semaglutide) is an injectable drug, approved by the FDA in 2017, that is used to treat type 2 diabetes. However, thanks to popular social media sites like TikTok, the #Ozempicchallenge has racked up millions of views and inquiring minds. Although Ozempic is not approved or marketed as a weight loss drug, it is often being prescribed by doctors for this exact reason. As a result, patients with type 2 diabetes who actually need this drug to manage their condition are losing access as availability dwindles. But that’s not even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that most consumers who are lucky enough to get this medication, and those who are even more fortunate to get this covered by insurance, are not being truly informed of the risks and the actual price of this ostensibly miraculous fat-melting injectable.
First, it’s important to understand how it works. Ozempic, like most semaglutides, are a once-weekly injectiable medication that helps control blood sugar levels by delaying gastric emptying and slowing down circulating glucose. This mechanism is also what can decrease appetite and increase satiety and fullness after a meal. As a result, patients are able to reduce calorie consumption more easily and thus, lose weight and body fat.
This all sounds great right? Not necessarily.
Ozempic can cause side effects. Aside from the immediate risks of sticking in a needle in your body, there can be other uncomfortable side-effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. For some, it can be severe enough for patients to completely stop taking it all together. However, some individuals do build up a tolerance to Ozempic and find that after a few weeks most of these GI issues subside.
Long-term and more serious side-effects of Ozempic include gallbladder disease and gallstones, kidney problems, pancreatitis, and increased risk of thyroid cancer.
Although side-effects are not common, they are a possibility so it’s important to discuss risks with your doctor.
Keep in mind that you’re likely not going to be on Ozempic for the rest of your life so if you lose weight while taking Ozempic and then stop the medication completely, rebound weight gain is probable. Working one-on-one with a dietitian before or while taking this medication can help set you up with the tools you need to sustain healthy eating habits. A dietitian can offer education, guidance, support and accountability so that you can continue to make positive changes and live a healthier lifestyle.