Ozempic: The Trendy Weight Loss Drug that Comes at a Price
Yes, those pants are getting a little tight around the waist. Yes, it’d be nice to go out to eat with friends and have the freedom to order dessert without worrying about whether your indulgence will undo all of your hard work at the gym. And yes, you probably can solve both problems with Ozempic, the new weight loss drug that’s been making waves in recent months. At first glance, Ozempic seems like a dream come true for those looking for an easy route to weight loss: just one injection a week, and you’ll shed pounds with minimal effort. But is it truly a miracle weight loss drug? Read on, friends and find out.
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What is Ozempic and how does it work?
Ozempic is a brand-name prescription drug known as Semaglutide, an antidiabetic medication developed in 2012 by Novo Nordisk. It is used to treat type 2 diabetes and as an anti-obesity medication for long-term weight loss.
Semaglutide mimics GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide), a protein found in our gut. When we eat, our brain’s appetite centres light up. After a while, our gut produces proteins like GLP-1, which signal to our brain that we’ve had enough food. This is how our bodies control hunger.
However, in some people, GLP-1 signals to the brain do not function properly. Even if they eat a lot, they still feel hungry and crave more food. This is one of the underlying causes of obesity and other metabolic disorders.
Ozempic is intended to address this issue. The medication works by slowing the rate at which your stomach empties food. It also inhibits hormones that cause the liver to release sugar, assisting in blood sugar control. These combined actions reduce the sensation of hunger and food cravings, resulting in less eating and, eventually, weight loss.
Ozempic comes in the form of a pre-filled injector pen with fixed doses to choose from. You can set the dose per injection to 0.25mg, 0.5mg, 1mg, or 2mg. However, it could only be obtained with a prescription. Furthermore, Ozempic is not cheap. It costs an average of US$49 (RM213) per week, for a total annual cost of $2,544 (RM11,032).
How Much Weight Can You Lose on Ozempic?
Clinical trials show that after 68 weeks of Ozempic use, people with obesity lost an average of 15-20% of their body weight. Many people have reported losing more weight on Ozempic by following a low-calorie diet and engaging in regular exercise. Other studies have found that people taking Ozempic lost more weight than those taking other approved anti-obesity medications. According to a Mayo Clinic study, Semaglutide helped people lose an average of 6% of their body weight in three months and 10.9% at six months.
Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, Adele, and Rebel Wilson are among the celebrities who have either confirmed or rumoured to be using Ozempic, as is billionaire Elon Musk, who has credited Ozempic in a tweet as one of the reasons he lost 13.6 kg.
Ozempic outperformed expectations in terms of weight loss success. So much so that there is a worldwide scarcity. The manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, has instructed healthcare providers not to write prescriptions for Ozempic until they resolve global supply chain issues and replenish stock. People interested in starting Semaglutide will have to wait months before branded versions become available.
What are the Side Effects of Taking Ozempic?
Ana McKenna, a YouTube user who described her 45-pound weight loss journey with Ozempic, told TODAY that it was her “easiest weight-loss attempt and my most successful.” However, she acknowledged that it was not a miracle cure, citing side effects such as headaches and fatigue.
According to Lim En Ni, Chief Pharmacist and Director of Engagement at Alpro Pharmacy, Malaysia’s largest prescription pharmacy chain, overdose of Ozempic or other similar prescription can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) that leads to more health complications. Common side effects of diabetes drugs include gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation.
“Other possible side effects include pancreatitis, changes in vision, low blood sugar, kidney failure and gallbladder issues. The drug Ozempic is also contraindicated for people who have suffered from medullary thyroid cancer or certain endocrine disorders,” said Lim.
Can You Stop Taking Ozempic?
Experts advise against discontinuing Ozempic without first consulting with your doctor. Your blood sugar levels may rise if you stop using it. In fact, the medication must be taken indefinitely for it to be effective; otherwise, people may regain the weight they’ve lost or even more.
One Tik Tokker Remi Bader claimed that she gained twice the weight she lost once she stopped taking Ozempic. She revealed that after stopping Ozempic, she not only “gained double the weight back,” but her “bingeing got so much worse.”
As a result, the drug is not necessarily able to reset a person for life. This means that if you are on Ozempic, you should budget RM11,032 per year for the rest of your life.
A Safer and More Sustainable Way to Weight Loss
Lim recommends that the first choice to reduce body weight is through lifestyle and diet modification. “Diet is the key component in weight management. Many people are aware of this, but only a few succeed because most people initiate the lifestyle and diet changes without proper planning and consultation from experts such as nutritionists and dietitians.”
When you consult with a nutritionist or dietician, they can help you measure your weight loss progress with a much higher success rate. Dietitians can create a personalised weight management plan that is effective and safe, while also taking into account the underlying contributing factors that need to be addressed for each individual.
Ozempic should only be used under a doctor’s prescription and purchased from a licensed pharmacy. The public should be aware that purchasing the drug online from illegal sources risks the health of the consumer and diabetic patients as the medications run out of stock due to the bad habit of self-prescription, added Lim.
“Ozempic has to be handled with care under tight temperature control as it is a cold chain medicine. Once the cold chain is broken, the efficacy may be affected and may also cause unwanted side effects,” Lim stated.
So, if you are looking for a quick fix to weight loss, sorry to disappoint you, but Ozempic is not the ideal solution. Follow the advice of your dietitian or nutritionist for the customised plan to help you get in the best shape you can this year. Yes, you can do it!