Ozempic (semaglutide) is a type 2 diabetes medication that is designed to help patients regulate their blood sugar levels. However, one of its side effects is weight loss, which explains its increasing popularity with non-diabetics who are looking to slim down.
However, before considering Ozempic as a weight-loss solution, it is essential to know what you are getting into. One of the key issues to consider is how long you would have to take the drug before starting to lose the weight that you are looking to shed.
This article answers important questions such as how to take this medication and explains how it works. It also identifies patients who shouldn’t take it and potential side effects. But first, let’s look at some key facts to help you understand everything you need to know about Ozempic.
Key facts on Ozempic
- Ozempic has been approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in the USA since 2017.
- Although it is not officially recognized as a weight-loss drug, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved its active ingredient, semaglutide, as a treatment for people struggling with obesity and similar weight-related problems.
- Ozempic is manufactured by Novo Nordisk which also produces Wegovy, which has the same active ingredient – semaglutide. It has been FDA-approved for weight loss since 2021. However, some doctors have been reluctant to prescribe it unless a patient’s weight has reached a life-threatening level. Shortages of Wegovy supplies also appear to have prompted some people to turn to Ozempic.
- The essential difference between Wegovy and Ozempic is simply that the latter has a lower dose of the active ingredient semaglutide. Ozempic is available in three available dosages: 0.5 milligrams, 1 milligram, and 2 milligrams. Wegovy, on the other hand, contains 2.4 milligrams of semaglutide.
- Ozempic is not insulin, but it does make the body produce more insulin, thus lowering blood sugar levels. It also slows the digestion of food and makes people feel fuller for longer, with some users claiming that they forget to eat while taking it.
- Novo Nordisk has sponsored research examining how effective semaglutide is as a weight-loss medication. One such study showed that obese people taking 2.4 milligrams of semaglutide once per week over a period of 68 weeks lost approximately 15% of their weight (an average of 34 pounds each) when the drug was combined with lifestyle changes.
- The drug lowers the risk of adults with type 2 diabetes or heart disease having either a heart attack or a stroke.
- Many doctors have taken to prescribing Ozempic “off-label” as a weight loss solution. Off-label is the term used when a medication is prescribed for something other than its intended usage, such as prescribing heart medication called beta-blockers to deal with anxiety.
- The rising popularity of Ozempic as a trending weight-loss solution has led to it being called “the worst-kept secret in Hollywood”. There have also been reported shortages of it across the US as it becomes increasingly well-publicized across social media.
How is Ozempic taken?
Ozempic is administered through an injection one time per week. The injection should be self-administered into either the upper arm, abdomen or thigh.
How does Ozempic work?
Ozempic belongs to a class of drugs known as GLP-1 receptor agonists (or simply GLP-1 drugs). These drugs prompt the body to make the digestive tract hormone glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1), which serves to decrease blood sugar levels and make people feel full. Such drugs have been used for more than 15 years to combat diabetes and obesity, and they have become more efficient in that time as dosages have increased and the need for injections has decreased from twice daily to once per week.
The real strength of Ozempic and other GLP-1 receptor agonists is that they change how the body responds to food. Specifically, they counteract your body’s natural tendency to fight against weight loss, which it does by activating hormones that make you feel more hungry and less full. That’s what can make GLP-1 receptor agonists so effective for people suffering from chronic obesity, a complicated disease of the metabolic system that is not receptive to standard weight-loss efforts such as eating less or exercising more.
How long does it take for Ozempic to work?
As with most pharmaceuticals, the impact of Ozempic varies from individual to individual. That said, you can expect to start seeing results in terms of weight loss within four to five weeks.
You should also remember that Ozempic and similar drugs are most likely to be effective when combined with healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating less, eating better, and taking more exercise.
Another very important that some studies have shown is that any weight loss while taking Ozempic will be gained back after discontinuing the medication. The fact that many users seem to continue taking it even after they have achieved their intended weight loss may explain the reported shortages of the drug, which have apparently seen people traveling to Canada and Mexico to get their hands on it.
According to Dr. W. Scott Butsch, a specialist in obesity medicine, “One of the most common misconceptions is that people believe they could take a medication for a few months, then stop and maintain weight. However, you’re likely to regain the lost weight once the medication is stopped.”
That’s the reason why taking Ozempic and similar drugs requires you to be committed to continuing to use them in the long term. That explains why such drugs are only really suitable for type 2 diabetics and people suffering from obesity rather than those looking for a short-term solution to having gained a few pounds.
Who should not take Ozempic?
Ozempic is certainly not safe for everyone. If you are under 18, pregnant or breastfeeding, you should definitely avoid this drug. Similarly, patients with any of the following conditions should not take it under any circumstances:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Pancreatitis (or any other pancreas or kidney problems)
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2), an endocrine system condition
You must also not take Ozempic if there is any history of medullary thyroid carcinoma in your family.
Before starting treatment, it is absolutely essential to speak to a doctor or another suitably qualified medical authority, who can provide you with all the advice you need to determine whether or not this is the right option for you. They can also inform you about how to take the drug and the correct dosage to use.
What are the potential side effects of Ozempic?
As well as helping to treat type 2 diabetes and promoting weight loss, Ozempic also has some potentially harmful side effects. These include dehydration, headaches, nausea, constipation and diarrhea. Such side effects are common but also typically relatively minor and tend to subside with time.
Novo Nordisk, the company that makes Ozempic and its sister drug Wegovy, has also identified a list of rarer but potentially much more serious side effects. That list includes pancreatitis, hypoglycemia, allergic reaction, kidney or gallbladder problems, eyesight issues and thyroid tumors/cancer.
Doctors have also pointed out that the fact that Ozempic is still such a new drug means that it might have lots of other unintended health consequences that have not yet been identified.
As we have seen, Ozempic is a medication designed and approved to treat type 2 diabetes. But that has not stopped its popularity from soaring as a weight-loss drug. Its active ingredient, semaglutide, was approved in 2022 as a treatment for obesity in its sister drug Wegovy.
It typically takes four to five weeks to start showing weight loss results. But before you start taking it you need to consider several other issues.
First, Ozempic is not for everyone, see the list above of people who should not take the drug. Second, it has some potentially harmful side effects, and there may be other such effects that have not yet been discovered. Third, its likely that weight loss effects are reversed as soon as patients stop taking the medication, which is a serious issue to take into account before you begin using it. Finally, drug shortages caused by rising demand could affect people who need it most: individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes.
All in all, Ozempic has shown great results in terms of treating diabetes and may well be a great solution for weight loss. But having said that, maybe it’s best left to those people suffering serious health problems who need it most. For people just looking to shed a few pounds, a sensible diet combined with a sufficiently rigorous exercise routine is really all they need. Whatever you think about using Ozempic, make sure you consult with your doctor or another suitable medical professional before you start.