For years, we’ve heard about magical weight loss products that promise to melt off the pounds. Some are far-fetched, some are so dangerous that they’re illegal, and some have made their way into the limelight — most recently, Ozempic and WeGovy. Originally intended to treat diabetes, these medications are now being prescribed, often via Telehealth, to people who want to lose weight. And it all started in Hollywood.
Variety reports that Ozempic and WeGovy have taken the industry by storm, and everyone, from reality stars to film producers to actors, has tried them. (Chelsea Handler said her doctor prescribed her Ozempic — without explaining what it was — in case she wanted to lose five pounds. Elon Musk tweeted that WeGovy helps him look fit and trim.) Since many health insurers refuse to cover the cost (around $1,200 to $1,500 monthly) for anyone who is not diabetic, only the rich can afford the injections. However, the average consumer should be far from envious of celebrities who can pay their way through weight loss — because these drugs have some potentially serious side effects.
How Ozempic and WeGovy Work
Ozempic and WeGovy both have the same active ingredient: semaglutide. It comes as a solution that gets injected in the stomach once a week, and it works by stimulating the release of insulin. The drug also suppresses the secretion of glucagon (a hormone produced by the pancreas that increases blood glucose levels) — but only when blood glucose levels are already elevated. This mitigates the risk of hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar levels). Lastly, semaglutide slows down digestion, making the patient feel full for a longer period of time. All of this can translate into major weight loss.
Negative Side Effects of Semaglutide
Though some users believe semaglutide is one of the best ways to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle, health experts caution that the drug has some serious side effects, listed below.
Nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, heartburn, diarrhea, or vomiting
Rash, itching, swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, tongue, throat, legs, ankles, or feet
Difficulty breathing or swallowing
Vision changes, fainting, or dizziness
You may gain some or all of the weight back when you stop taking the drug
Your blood sugar may drop too far if you take this drug with other blood sugar-lowering medications
In addition, some semaglutide takers have developed serious kidney problems, including acute kidney injury. Symptoms of this include bloody urine, decreased urination, muscle twitching, nausea, rapid weight gain, and seizures. You should not take semaglutide if you have a history of thyroid cancer or pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
If you’re curious about taking generic semaglutide, Ozempic, or WeGovy for weight loss, consult with your doctor — and not just a Telehealth doctor. There’s a good chance it’s more trouble than it’s worth, depending on your health and the potential side effects. Additionally, the sudden popularity of the drug is making it difficult for people with severe diabetes to get their prescriptions fulfilled. (Though even some pre-diabetic and diabetic patients who have taken the drug report that it is not worth the risks.) Lastly, weight loss drugs reinforce the “thin is ideal” mentality — something that experts worry is harmful for people suffering with or recovering from eating disorders.
You are more than just a number on a scale — don’t let Hollywood tell you otherwise.
If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Association has a free helpline available at 1-800-931-2237 or through text at 1-800-931-2237.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.