If you spend any time on social media at all, you may have heard about celebrities using a drug called Ozempic for weight loss. Originally developed to treat type-2 diabetes, Ozempic has recently gained attention because a lot of famous people have been rumored to use it to lose weight quickly before red-carpet events. The most famous one being Elon Musk.
On Twitter, Musk credited his weight loss to the use of Ozempic. However, he also mentioned that he was using an additional FDA-approved weight loss medication, fasting, and following a strict diet. So, maybe Ozempic is not the miracle weight loss aid that it’s made out to be, and some extra help is needed.
So what is Ozempic, and how does it work? In this post, we’ll explore the science behind Ozempic, its effects on weight loss, and if it’s a good idea to rely on its off-label use to lose weight. Let’s get started.
Can I use Ozempic for weight loss?
Technically, yes. Doctors have been prescribing their obese patients Ozempic off-label for weight loss. However, since Ozempic has not been clinically tested specifically for weight loss, off-label use is not recommended.
It is important to keep in mind that Ozempic is a relatively new medication and the FDA is still monitoring its uses with clinical trials. According to results from the most recent clinical trials, some patients can experience weight loss while others can gain more, so there is no definitive answer as to whether Ozempic is a 100% effective weight loss treatment for everyone.
If you’d like to be on the safe side, you can wait until the medication goes through the FDA approval process, and is deemed an effective treatment for weight loss. Until then, you can look out for other FDA-approved alternatives.
Ozempic is used for the management of type-2 diabetes first and foremost. Type-2 diabetes is closely associated with being overweight and obese. The relationship is twofold; either people can develop type-2 diabetes as a result of their obesity, or unmanaged blood glucose levels can make it difficult for them to lose weight. And for patients who have type-2 diabetes, or are at risk for developing it; Ozempic can manage blood glucose levels and help with weight loss, which will help with managing the symptoms.
How does Ozempic make you lose weight?
Ozempic mimics GLP-1, which is a physiological incretin hormone. GLP-1 stimulates the production of insulin, slows down digestion in the stomach (also known as gastric emptying), and reduces food intake. In other words, it curbs hunger.
So, you could say Ozempic works a little like gastric sleeve surgery in the sense that it alters your hormone levels, leading to weight loss. However, it’s not possible to achieve dramatic results with Ozempic, as you can do with getting a weight loss surgery.
There is a possibility that after a while, Ozempic weight loss could come to a plateau, or stop altogether. So, in order to achieve sustainable weight loss with Ozempic, you still need to stick to a healthy diet and exercise routine.
Safety of Ozempic
The safety of Ozempic for the treatment of type-2 diabetes has been extensively studied in clinical trials and it has been found to be generally safe and well-tolerated by patients. However, like all medications, Ozempic may cause some side effects.
Especially for people with certain conditions, Ozempic can cause more harm than good. This is why it’s crucial that patients do not take this medication without a prescription. Now let’s review some of the safety criteria and guidelines for Ozempic.
Is Ozempic FDA-approved?
Yes, Ozempic is FDA-approved, but only for the management of type-2 diabetes.
Ozempic is not FDA-approved for weight loss purposes. The use of Ozempic for weight loss is considered off-label.
Currently, there are trials where the medication is tested for these purposes. If the trials are promising, the medication could be approved by the FDA as a treatment for obesity in the future.
Who should avoid Ozempic?
Ozempic is not a medication everyone can use. If prescribed to the wrong person, Ozempic can have significant effects, and damage your overall health in the process.
The contraindications for Ozempic are as follows:
- Having a family history of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC)
- Having Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type-2 (MEN2)
- Being allergic to semaglutide or any of the ingredients in Ozempic
- Planning to become/being pregnant or; actively breastfeeding
- Being below the age of 18
- Having pancreatitis
- Having type 1 diabetes
If you have at least one of the conditions listed above, you can face serious complications if you use Ozempic. Please share your conditions and your medical history with your doctor so they can prescribe the appropriate medications for you.
What are the side effects of Ozempic?
Of course, like all medicines, Ozempic comes with pretty significant side effects. These side effects are the main reason why it could be dangerous to use Ozempic without a prescription and doctor’s supervision. The side effects and potential risks listed below were observed during clinical trials.
If you are considering getting a prescription, please make sure that you are taking these side effects into account.
Common side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
Less common side effects include:
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Changes in vision, such as blurred vision
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Kidney problems, such as kidney failure
- Allergic reactions
- Gallbladder issues
- Thyroid tumors or thyroid cancer, also known as medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)
If you are currently using Ozempic and experiencing any of these side effects, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Even if you are experiencing the more common side effects, they could indicate a more serious underlying problem.
What should you avoid while using Ozempic for weight loss?
There are also some basic guidelines you need to adhere to make sure that you are using this medication in the safest way possible, and to its fullest extent:
- Do not “share” your Ozempic with anyone. By sharing your Ozempic pen, you can get infected, or infect others with blood-borne diseases. Even if you change the needle, there is still a risk of infection, and you can cause serious harm to yourself, or the person you share the pen with; spreading infections, disease, causing an allergic reaction, etc.
- Do not rely on Ozempic for weight loss. Ozempic can’t be an effective weight loss treatment unless you also adopt a healthy diet and exercise routine. Only relying on the medication will stress out your liver, and there’s a chance you’ll gain the weight you lost once you stop the medication.
- Obese and diabetic patients must avoid foods and beverages with refined sugars and starches, and high in saturated fats in order to maintain their blood sugar levels.
Getting treated with Ozempic
If you’re interested in getting an Ozempic prescription, the best course of action is to work with a doctor that can guide and monitor you throughout the process. They’d be able to conduct the proper tests to find out if this medication is suitable for you, and can come up with an effective treatment plan. Now, let’s answer some common question about the treatment process.
Who prescribes Ozempic?
All doctors can prescribe Ozempic; obesity physicians, endocrinologists, family physicians, etc. However, there is no guarantee that your doctor can prescribe Ozempic for weight loss, as it’s a medication for type-2 diabetes first and foremost.
Not all doctors are comfortable with prescribing medications for off-label use. However, they might be more comfortable with prescribing other medicines that are also a semaglutide.
If you are considering getting an Ozempic prescription for off-label uses, we strongly recommend that you have an evaluation with an endocrinologist where you go through some tests, and your medical history to make sure that you are suitable for this medicine.
What is the dose of Ozempic for weight loss?
Ozempic is an injection and is administered once a week. Typically, the starting dose is 0.25 mg, which makes it possible for your body to adjust. For the treatment of type-2 diabetes, the dosage is doubled every four weeks.
- Month 1: 0.25mg
- Month 2: 0.5mg
- Month 3: 1mg
- Month 4 and forward: 2mg
For weight loss purposes, the treatment will start with 0.25 mg and will be doubled after a month to 0.5 mg. For most patients, the dosage will be kept at 0.5 mg a week. If the plateau happens or if it stops completely, your doctor can increase your dose by 0.25 mg, up to 2mg.
- Month 1: 0.25 mg
- Month 2 and onwards: 0.5 mg
- If weight loss halts/stops: +0.25 mg every month, up to 2mg
As you can see, in order for your body to get used to the medication, you have to start with very low doses, and the dosage is increased over a long period of time, and only when needed.
How long does it take to lose weight with Ozempic?
It’s difficult to answer this question because of the limited amount of clinical trials available. It differs from person to person; some may start losing after a week or two, and some may start losing excess fat several weeks after they take their first dosage of Ozempic. Also, some may even gain weight using this injection or can experience no change at all.
How long should I use it?
Since FDA has not approved the use of Ozempic for weight loss, we cannot say for sure how long should you use it. For now, you can use Ozempic as long as the doctor who prescribed it to you deems it appropriate; which means as long as you keep losing weight and/or do not experience any side effects.
If you are interested in Ozempic for managing the symptoms of type-2 diabetes, there are alternatives available. Just like Ozempic, they mimic the GLP-1 hormone. The most definitive distinction is the price differences between them. If you have an allergy or an underlying condition that could make the effects of Ozempic worse, your doctor might prescribe you the following medications:
- Victoza (Liraglutide)
- Bydureon (Exenatide)
We talked about how Ozempic is not FDA-approved for weight loss purposes. However, unlike Ozempic, there are several medications that are approved by the FDA for weight loss purposes, and the treatment of obesity, which are:
- Wegovy (Semaglutide)
- Qsymia (Phentermine-topiramate)
- Alli or Xenical (Orlistat)
- Imcivree (Setmelanotide)
- Saxenda (Liraglutide)
- Contrave (Bupropion-naltrexone)
There are also unmedicated treatments available too. Some of them include minimally invasive surgeries and long-term effects such as a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass; some of them include non-invasive methods and short-term effects such as a gastric balloon or gastric botox. If you want to lose some weight, you can consider the non-invasive options. If you suffer from diabetes and want to lose weight at the same time, then the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass are the best options. Especially, bypass is known as a cure for Type 2 diabetes.
How does Ozempic compare to weight loss surgeries?
As we said before, it’s not possible to have fast, dramatic, and long-lasting results with Ozempic compared to weight loss surgeries. Let’s review:
- The fat-loss rate of Ozempic compared to, for instance, a gastric sleeve is way lower. While people who have had the gastric sleeve surgery can lose up to 70% of their excess fat, patients who use Ozempic can roughly lose 26%.
- On the other hand, Ozempic is a non-invasive, off-label treatment for obesity while bariatric surgeries are mostly minimally-invasive treatments for obesity. With Ozempic use, there might be problems with relying on the medication while surgical options encourage a long-term lifestyle shift.
- If you are considering Ozempic for its non-invasiveness, there are also other non-invasive options available with greater results such as a gastric balloon or gastric botox whose occupancy last 6 months to a year.
- When it comes to side effects, there are studies that show that 74% of patients who use Ozempic have inhibited the common and less common side effects. With the gastric sleeve, it is approximately 15-20%.
- Bariatric surgeries are performed once, and the revision rate is around 8%. Ozempic on the other hand requires constant use. And with a hefty price tag, the cost can add up quickly; a year’s supply of Ozempic can cost as much as the average cost of bariatric surgeries around $15.000.
So if you’re interested in this medication for the treatment of obesity, it might not be the most effective option available.
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