The realm of weight loss is a big business that includes everything from shakes and powders to supplements and bars. Within this mentality of a “quick-fix” for weight loss, weight-loss medications are ever popular. As the holidays are approaching many individuals become concerned with “staying on track” as sweets and treats become more abundant. Now the demand has turned to popular diabetes medications to help individuals quickly lose weight or keep it off through the holidays. Even Elon Musk credited Wegovy (as well as fasting) for his dramatic slim down, and celebrities are using Ozempic for quick weight loss before big events. So, what are these medications and are they an answer for weight loss? Let’s dig in.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic (semaglutide) is a medication used to reduce A1C levels, in individuals with type 2 diabetes. It also works to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in these individuals. Semaglutide works by targeting GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas and brain. These receptors control the release of insulin and glucacon in the body. Semaglutide binds to these receptors to increase the amount of insulin released and decrease glucagon levels. This reduces the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. The medication also slows gastric emptying, which leads to a decreased food intake due to a feeling of fullness.
When Ozempic first came on the market, patient weight loss results were so significant the manufacturer started running trials on the drug with the outcome of treating obesity.
Wegovy, which uses the same medication (semaglutide) as Ozempic, was released by Novo Nordisk to treat obesity along with a reduced calorie diet and physical activity.
What is the difference between Wegovy and Ozempic?
The difference between Wegovy and Ozempic is the dosing. Lower doses are appropriate for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, while higher doses are typically used for weight loss. However, there have been some instances where Ozempic has been prescribed off label and used for weight loss. Several articles detail celebrities losing weight for events using Ozempic.
Both medications are once weekly injections. The pens must be kept in the fridge until first use. After first use, Ozempic pens can remain at room temperature for 56 days. Wegovy pens are single-use only and should be discarded after use.
Side effects to be aware of with this medication:
- Acute abdominal pain
New Trials for Weight Loss in Adolescents
New trials are now being conducted to test the appropriateness of this medication to combat obesity in teenagers. Approximately 17% of adolescents in the 10 to 17 age range are considered obese. This comes with serious health complications such as early onset hypertension, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and joint problems. So far in trials, Wegovy has shown to be more effective for weight loss in obese teenagers than lifestyle interventions alone. More information is needed to understand the underlying cause of teenage obesity so targeted lifestyle interventions can be improved.
The Problem With Weight Loss Medications Alone
Many times weight loss medications are viewed as “quick-fix” options for extreme weight loss. The problem with this mentality is that this weight loss is not sustainable. Both Ozempic and Wegovy mention the drugs should be used in combination with “a reduced calorie meal plan and increased physical activity.”
A new study found that long-term 10% weight loss was achieved when the weight loss medication was used in conjunction with lifestyle interventions.
Also, depending on your individual health, wellness and goals, weight loss medications may not be right for you. Another study notes that, “In a head to head trial, lifestyle intervention was superior to pharmacotherapy in preventing type 2 diabetes in patients at high risk for the condition.”
It is also important to mention that one trial showed that weight loss slowed after stopping Wegovy , even with lifestyle intervention. Further research is needed to determine an appropriate long-term plan for patients requiring Wegovy for weight loss.
Pharmacist Sam’s Tips:
- Semaglutide should be used appropriately – Ozempic for diabetes, Wegovy for weight loss. This prevents strain on the manufacturer to keep up with high demand and improves accessibility to medication for diabetics.
- Use these medications while working with a dietitian and pharmacist on lifestyle changes to improve long-term results.
- Ask your pharmacist about how to properly store, inject, and discard your medication.
- Know what to do if you miss a dose.
- Common side effects should reduce over time, typically within the first month.
Amy RD’s Tips:
- Always discuss medications with your doctor as well as your pharmacist for questions
- Weight loss medications should be used in conjunction with lifestyle interventions, dietitians are experts in nutrition and lifestyle interventions
- Find a dietitian that will work with you and your specific needs and goals
- Remember that small changes can add up to big results, weight loss medications are not always the answer for long-term, sustainable weight-loss