Is Ozempic a weight-loss miracle drug or too good to be true?

Weight loss

Weight loss : Is Ozempic a weight-loss miracle drug or too good to be true?

Weight loss ; Tracy Morgan, Dolores Cantina, Golnesa ‘GG’ Gharachedaghi: All have touted Ozempic, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved in 2017 for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, as an effective weight loss tool. The hype surrounding the injectable drug has led to a drastic increase in sales and shortages. But is Ozempic the miracle fix-it for those struggling with weight loss?

“Anytime a treatment is viewed as a cure-all for a phenomenon as complex as obesity, you want to be careful,” says Joseph Trunzo, Ph.D., Psychology professor and associate director of Bryant’s School of Health and Behavioral Sciences. “There are many things that lead to people’s behaviors around eating, and there’s no one treatment that will address all that.” Weight loss treatment 

School of Health and Behavioral Sciences’ Director Kirsten Hokeness explains that the injectable medication, developed by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, mimics a hormone called GLP-1, which helps stimulate the pancreas to make insulin so blood sugar levels lower. One of the medication’s side effects is weight loss since GLP-1 gives brain receptors the feeling of fullness.

“It also slows the emptying of your stomach, so you will feel full longer and eat less,” says Hokeness, adding that the FDA has not okayed Ozempic for weight loss, yet people are using it for such, which has caused shortages for type 2 diabetes patients.

Wegovy, a higher-dose version of Ozempic, is prescribed for chronic weight loss management. The medication received FDA approval in 2021 and is intended for adults with a body mass index of 27 or above, with weight-related health conditions. Relying on GLP-1, the medication reduces a person’s appetite and slows the movement of food from the stomach to intestine.

Common side effects for both include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Use of Ozempic has also led to muscle loss, with The New York Times reporting in February that doctors are looking for ways to counteract this effect. Trunzo notes that more serious complications include pancreatitis and issues of the kidneys, gallbladder, and thyroid.

“Anytime you’re taking something that impacts hormonal functioning, you run the risk of also having nervous system side effects,” Trunzo says.

As for cost, Ozempic is covered by insurance when it’s prescribed for type 2 diabetes; for off-label use for weight loss, it’s approximately $900 per month out of pocket. Wegovy is typically covered by insurance but, if not, costs roughly $1,350 each month. Trunzo adds that over-reliance on weight loss medications is problematic since people may be of the mindset that, because they’re taking this drug, they don’t have to make other lifestyle changes.

“There are lots of emotional and behavioral factors that contribute to health and eating patterns. If you’re not addressing those issues while taking a medication that’s designed to help weight loss, you’re really going to compromise the overall effectiveness of the medicine,” Trunzo says.

Hokeness notes that when people go off Ozempic and Wegovy, their weight loss will plateau and they often gain what they’d lost, which, Trunzo adds, can lead to anxiety and depression.

“Weight loss is a challenge for every one of us, but you should take a holistic approach by looking at what works for you and being mindful of why and how you’re eating,” Hokeness says.

Additionally, Trunzo says, just five or 10 pounds can have a significant impact on overall health outcomes — whether it be diabetes, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular functioning.

“People are just not educated enough about the food they eat and the ways they need to move their bodies to stay healthy. If people had a better understanding of those two things, we’d be in better shape,” Trunzo says.

Ozempic and Wegovy may be the latest medications people are taking to shed extra weight, but they are far from the last in this trend; on March 7, Novo Nordisk informed investors of early-stage trials for a weight loss pill that could be twice as effective as Wegovy, according to Quartz.

“I think we’re going to see a proliferation of these kinds of drugs,” Trunzo says. “In general, people want easier answers and, if there’s a way to take a pill to make things better, people are going to be prone to that, which the market will respond to.”

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