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Ozempic 101: Your Guide to Understanding its Benefits and Uses

Due to Ozempic’s soaring popularity among consumers, the Food and Drug Administration has categorized the diabetes drug and others like it as “currently in shortage". Dr. Sharleen Sidhu, Medical Director of Endocrinology at MarinHealth’s Braden Diabetes Center shares what Ozempic is, its popularity, and what the public should know before incorporating this type of drug into their health regime.

What is Ozempic and why is it in such high demand?

Ozempic, a non-insulin injectable medication taken weekly, is in the class of glucagon-like peptide one receptor (GLP-1) agonists. It works by reducing glucagon secretion (a hormone that raises blood sugars) and increasing insulin secretion, which lowers blood sugars. Additionally, the drug slows gastric emptying by inducing a sense of fullness and thus helping to reduce food intake. Because of the way the drug impacts people’s appetites, one of the additional benefits is weight loss.

Despite its FDA approval for managing type two diabetes, Ozempic has become available off label for weight loss, even for non-diabetics.

How does Ozempic differ from other weight loss drugs?

There are other GLP-receptor agonists that work like Ozempic such as Mounjaro. Mounjaro, however, is known to be more effective in terms of weight loss and blood sugar reduction due to its inclusion of glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide. Like Ozempic, Mounjaro is FDA approved solely for type two diabetics.

Another popular GLP-1-agonist is Wegovy, which is a higher-dose variant of Ozempic. Unlike Ozempic and Mounjaro, Wegovy is currently FDA approved for weight loss in non-diabetic individuals who are overweight (BMI ≥27 kg/m2) or obese (BMI ≥30 kg/m2).

The weekly dosage of each drug varies. While the maximum dosage for Ozempic is 2 milligrams, Wegovy peaks at 2.4 milligrams and Mounjaro reaches 15 milligrams.

Have you seen an uptick in patients asking for Ozempic and other weight loss drugs?

We have seen a remarkable increase in patients seeking these types of weight loss drugs—50- 60% over the past year. And Ozempic in particular not only appeals to overweight patients who want to lose weight or who are pre-diabetic – even diabetics have asked to try the drug over Mounjaro which in lot of cases can be more effective than Ozempic.

What risks should people consider before taking Ozempic?

Ozempic comes with contraindications (a specific situation in which a drug should not be used because it may be harmful to the person), making it unsuitable for individuals with certain conditions such as multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome, type 2 (MEN type 2) and in patient’s with personal and/or family history of Medullary Thyroid cancer (MTC). Ozempic can also cause pancreatitis, so people with a history of the condition must be very careful. Side effects such as nausea, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and in severe cases, vomiting can occur. There is also a risk of hypersensitivity reaction, gallstones and elevated liver enzymes.

How can someone maximize weight loss while on Ozempic?

We’re blessed that the pharmaceutical industry has given us these drugs that aid in weight loss, but forming a better and healthier lifestyle will maximize results and continuity. This is also beneficial for patients who stop using these medications as they are less likely to gain back weight. Combining Ozempic with regular exercise and a healthy balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is the best way to achieve results.

Should people taking Ozempic know the proper dosages to take? How long should they stay on it?

Every patient should have an individual weight loss goal when beginning Ozempic. They should have the desire to live a healthier lifestyle, with Ozempic used as an aid. The amount of time someone should use these drugs depends upon how much weight they want to lose. Some individuals can reach their goals in couple months with average weight loss one to two pounds per week while in some the weight loss effect can be slower or faster. Start with the smallest dose and titrate up slowly. If they take an excessive dosage it can lead to low blood sugar, gastrointestinal symptoms and dehydration, so it’s crucial to follow the prescribed dosage. After achieving the target weight, users should gradually reduce the dose in conjunction with their lifestyle changes. If a healthy lifestyle isn’t maintained, it’s likely the weight will come back. It’s also important to know if you cannot tolerate the medication. You can discontinue it at any time without needing to wean off it.

What should people know about using off-brand weight loss drugs?

Purchasing off brand drugs online carries risks due to uncertainties regarding the drug’s authenticity, condition, and proper storage. For example, the product may not contain the same molecule as the original brand drug. The dosage might not be the same either.

If you want to use off-label Ozempic and other weight loss drugs, it’s important to be careful. Make sure you go to somebody who has a medical license and is a reliable source—not online, which a lot of people are doing. A medical practitioner should know and be able to discuss the drug’s repercussions and side effects. They should know how to prescribe it correctly and how to use it appropriately in a slow titration.

Any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?

The buzz/hype and curiosity surrounding Ozempic and other weight loss drugs invites us to question and explore our own health choices. In a landscape flooded with so many trends and quick fixes for our health, we must first understand what our goals and motivations are. By seeking reputable sources of information, having realistic weight loss goals, and practicing holistic wellness, there is a promising path towards long-term health, happiness and vitality.