Ozempic is a diabetes medication that’s been gaining considerable attention lately because of its ability to help some people lose significant amounts of weight. Ozempic is a brand name for the drug known as semaglutide. Ozempic does make you eat less, though the exact mechanism about, “how exactly does ozempic work for weight loss?”, isn’t clear yet. It suppresses your appetite & makes you feel full for longer. It also affects the gut bacteria, which can also help with weight loss.
Trials of this medication have shown that it can help the users shed 10% to 15% of their total body weight.
How Does Ozempic Work for Weight Loss?
Ozempic is semaglutide, which means that it is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist.
Semaglutide and other GLP-1 medications mimic the action of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1. In response to the rise in blood sugar after meals, GLP-1 receptor agonists help the body produce more insulin to keep the blood sugar levels from spiking after meals.
The semaglutide contained in ozempic has a long half-life, which means that it remains active in the body for an extended period. This characteristic makes Ozempic an effective once-weekly injection, ensuring prolonged blood sugar control and weight management.
The once in a week injection is easy to administer yourself. The device makes it easy to do so. You just need to put the tiny needle against your skin and press a button. It gets done in an instant with just a little pinch. The pinch is quite similar to the one we experience with a home testing glucometer.
People on ozempic say that it suppresses the appetite so strongly that once you start it, you will find it difficult to finish the food on your plate & food cravings are far off.
It lowers blood sugar along with its ability to help individuals lose weight. It can be easier and less expensive to obtain through insurance coverage in comparison to Wegovy which is a specific medicine for obesity.
In all instances, one should always discuss this with a physician who can determine if Ozempic or an alternative medication like Wegovy, could be a more appropriate choice.
Ozempic vs Wegovy for Weight Loss
Both Ozempic and Wegovy are brand names for semaglutide and injectables. But they are not exactly the same.
Wegovy is FDA-approved for the treatment of overweight and obesity. Wegovy contains a higher dose of semaglutide which is 2.4 mg. Ozempic on the other hand was developed specifically for the treatment of type 2 Diabetes. However, it is also prescribed for weight loss. The highest possible dose is 2mg.
Ozempic costs around $900 to $1122 per month without insurance and Wegovy’s monthly cost without insurance is around $1350. The cost may vary with the pharmacy. With private insurance, the cost is much less. There are patients whose private insurance pays nearly the whole cost and they pay only $25 per month. If you are paying out of pocket totally, you may get it cheaper if your pharmacy accepts discount cards such as GoodRx.
With these cards, you could save a few hundred dollars. There are patients who pay around $850 to $900 with these cards. Some patients with these cards get to pay only $500 out of their pocket.
Discount on Ozempic may be available in the form of printable coupons, rebates, savings or copay cards, trial offers or free samples. An offer may be printable from a website, whereas others may require registration, completing a questionnaire or obtaining a sample from a medical professional.
Ozempic weight loss
Ozempic and other semaglutide medications work for many people, however the results could be variable.
The research has demonstrated that not all patients respond to them. It is essential to first identify the best responders to each obesity intervention.
Research work is ongoing about how to identify the best responders for obesity interventions. Till now it has been established that patients with abnormal postprandial satiety, which is also known as “hungry gut phenotype“, are the best responders.
To figure out how to identify hungry gut phenotypes, before prescribing medications, is the next step in the research. A test called “hungry gut response test”, has been developed which tells that whether a patient will respond positive or not. This is a big achievement for the field of obesity and ofcourse for patients because for the first time, patients are being told about what kind of obesity they have and how they need to work on it.
Ozempic has shown a full fledge health change in patients. Health improves dramatically because of the weight loss. Some patients have seen improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol and energy, along with other benefits. Obesity is a base for a lot of other serious chronic diseases. Hence, it becomes very important to manage obesity before it does further irreversible damage.
Many people are not able to loose weight & for many it always comes back quickly. This class of medications have become as a big game changer for such patients.
Is Ozempic FDA approved for weight loss ?
No. It is only approved for diabetes.
The active ingredient, semaglutide, is approved for weight loss under the trade name Wegovy which is a higher dosage of 2.4mg.
In October 2022, Elon Musk tweeted that it was Wegovy that helped him lose weight.
Ozempic Side Effects
It’s very important to know about the possible side effects before you start taking the medicine. Even if you are going to take it for a short duration or just a few months, it’s very important to understand that there could be side effects when you start it.
Ozempic has been approved by the FDA because it has been found to be safe during clinical studies. However, every medical drug brings the potential for side effects, and this one has some drawbacks too. The most common possible side effects of semaglutide medications include:
- Decreased appetite
Though it has become quite notorious as an appetite suppressant but most people still eat about two-thirds of the amount of food they normally would.
One should always start with a lower dose & slowly start to increase the dosage. This could help with the side effects. The dosage should be decreased if the side effects become unbearable.
Patients on Ozempic should shift to eating “two or three smaller meals a day,” instead of fasting. Another major thing to keep in mind while on ozempic or on any weight loss regimen, is that, one should be very careful in the protein intake. If this is not taken care of, the fat loss will make a hollow under the skin & the skin will look saggy. This can actually make a person look even more old after weight loss. So protein intake should be watched religiously. Opting for low carb, high protein meals can support healthy, sustainable weight loss with Ozempic.
Ozempic and Thyroid Cancer
In research, the semaglutide has been found to cause thyroid tumors in rats. According to a study published in Diabetes Care in February, researchers found that people taking GLP-1 receptor agonists for a duration of one to three years may experience an increased risk of all types of thyroid cancers.
To be on safe side, people with such family history or any such prior condition even minor like a non cancerous thyroid nodule, should avoid using this drug.
Some people on this medicine lost the desire to drink & found no pleasure in drinking at all.
Some people on the medicine found themselves incapable of feeling the buzz & instead felt dizzy & nauseated.
Read more: Ozempic and Alcohol Interaction
Ozempic face after Weight Loss
There is a term “Ozempic face” circulating for people who are or were on ozempic. The term implies a loss of fat in the face that can lead to a gaunt appearance, saggy skin and wrinkles. Though this term is not officially listed as a side effect of the medication, but some users have reported looking older after taking Ozempic for a while.
This however is not actually a specific side effect of this medicine, it is actually a natural consequence of losing fat, because the body sheds fat from all over, not only from specific fat dominant places like tummy or thighs. People who are using it as a weight loss medicine for cosmetic reasons need to understand this better. Such people can watch their protein intake in every meal & they should go for weights exercise to build muscle to avoid saggy skin.
Ozempic is a weekly injectable medication for people with type 2 diabetes. Its initial FDA approval was for doses of 0.5 mg or 1 mg. In 2022, the FDA approved a higher dose of 2 mg. The maximum safe dose is currently set to 2.0 milligrams.
It lowers blood sugar by helping the pancreas make insulin.
There are people who have not experienced any side effects from this medicine. This list includes people who started at 0.25 milligrams for first four weeks & increased to 0.5 milligrams and then to 1.0 milligrams.
Read More: Ozempic Dosage Phases
Ozempic foods to avoid
While being on Ozempic, it is not imperative to follow any rigid food guidelines & no food is strictly off. However, it is important to maintain a healthy diet for the medicine to give good results. The side effects may worsen if a healthy dietary pattern is not maintained. Ozempic may cause nausea and vomiting if taken with foods high in fat or sugar like processed meats, fried foods, doughnuts etc.
Alcohol & caffeine consumption should also be limited to once per day as these may cause low blood sugar and dehydration. Tea and soda should also be limited.
Ozempic foods to avoid: Detailed List
Shortage of this drug
Because it has become a star medicine, there’s been a vast and growing demand for the medication by the people with obesity. This has led to an ongoing shortage of the medication and some patients with Type 2 diabetes have had difficulty getting their prescriptions filled.
The worldwide shortage started in early 2022 when Novo Nordisk company couldn’t supply enough of this medicine to meet an unexpected increase in demand due to off label prescribing of ozempic for weight loss.
Making this medication involves a complex process to produce semaglutide using specialised equipment in a unique manufacturing setting & it takes time. This means that re-establishing supply for a global shortage is going to take some time.
Who Should Use Ozempic?
While Wegovy, the other semaglutide medication, is FDA approved to treat obesity, the FDA approved Ozempic for use specifically in people with Type 2 diabetes only. Weight loss is a secondary effect of the medication, so it is sometimes prescribed off-label to manage obesity.
Obesity is a chronic condition which opens the doors for a long list of other serious health conditions. Being overweight has been associated with a range of chronic conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease. Managing your weight in a safe & sustainable pattern is an essential part of keeping you healthy for the long run. The new class of GLP-1 receptor agonists is a safe & effective way to do so.
One shouldn’t plan to use this medicine to manage weight for whole life unless one has diabetes. Despite its effect on weight loss, doctors advise to reserve this drug for its intended use in patients with diabetes only.
Ozempic shouldn’t be taken as a single fast solution for managing obesity.
It’s important to mention that this medication and other medications need to be part of a multidisciplinary lifestyle program that covers all aspects including diet, exercise and physical activity. Pharmacological interventions are just one part not the whole story.
Criteria for GLP-1 agonist prescription
Ozempic is not for just anyone who wants to try to drop a couple of pounds quickly. There is a strict criteria for prescribing GLP-1 agonist medications to ensure they’re only going to patients who really need them.
- Patients should have a BMI(Body Mass Index) over 30 or a BMI over 27
- One associated condition like hypertension or Type 2 diabetes
- Have been unable to lose and keep off weight with lifestyle changes alone (diet, exercise).
- Blood tests to check the overall fitness level.
- Patients with a family history of pancreatitis, medullary thyroid cancer or a rare condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia 2 should not take these medications.