Proponents say it’s a “miracle” diet pill – which can turn users against food. But what is the truth about Ozempic?
Ozempic, a controversial drug labeled by the media as Hollywood’s “best-kept secret” for dramatic weight loss, has become an internet sensation for its seemingly quick effects.
“There are definitely people talking about celebrities doing this,” said Los Angeles art dealer Samantha Glasser, who has been taking Ozempic since April.
“I’ve completely changed my lifestyle. I didn’t know I could lose more than 50 pounds,” she said.
But the drug is designed for people with type 2 diabetes, and there are concerns that unapproved demand for weight-loss use could lead to a shortage of diabetics who rely on the drug.
Elon Musk credits injections for his slimmer appearance — he tweeted in November that he “lost 30 lbs.”
Rumors swirled about Ozempic after Kim Kardashian’s drastic weight change ahead of this year’s MET party, though she has yet to confirm use of it.
Branded Wegovy, semaglutide (the ingredient in Ozempic) is only available in the UK for people with type 2 diabetes and was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss last year. Ozempic itself is not FDA-approved for weight loss.
Ozempic’s main controversy stems from its immediate effects — mild to severe nausea at the thought of food.
“The biggest complaint I get is patients going to their favorite restaurant and saying ‘I ate two bites of steak and I can’t eat it, I feel sick,'” says Dr. Daniel Ghiyam, who runs a clinic in Simi Valley, California, and was told Ozempic and Wegovy, a similar injectable, were inundated with requests.
There are other potential side effects — pancreatitis, gallstones, and a possible increased risk of thyroid cancer.
“Reset your master clock”
After initial skepticism, Los Angeles-based nutritionist Kim Shapira is now a convert to Ozempic after working with various clients.
“You hear about people voluntarily taking drugs that make them sick, but then you realize it’s all relative. How sick are you? It’s mild nausea…and there are drugs that counteract that situation,” she explained.
“You’re basically resetting your master clock. If you can actually understand your emotional needs while you’re working, I think there’s a lot of benefit.”
shortage of people who depend on it
Shortages are widespread and there are concerns that drugs like Ozempic are becoming less accessible to the diabetics who depend on it for their treatment.
Dr Robert Gabe, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association, told Sky News his patients “had to run from one pharmacy to another to find a medicine they could buy”.
“I’ve certainly had patients who struggled to get their medications and had to miss doses, which put them at risk of weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels,” Dr. Gabbay said.
‘Obesity epidemic’ poised to end
Many said the discussion surrounding Ozempic was to be expected.
The U.S. diet industry is worth an estimated $58 billion, and more than one-third of the population is obese.
But the cultural danger of offering people a “quick fix” for weight loss doesn’t go away because of the professionals who recommend it.
Mrs. Shapira added: “We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic, with the average American gaining 29 pounds (13.15 kilograms) during COVID.”
“Their size can lead to high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, high blood sugar … it changes everything.
“I think doctors have a real responsibility here to make sure the medicine is being prescribed to the right person at the right time for the right reason.”
A spokesperson for Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic, said: “While Novo Nordisk recognizes that all licensed prescribers may choose to take the treatment outside of its intended purpose or approved parameters of use, Novo Nordisk does not endorse this in any way.”