What you must know: Taking Ozempic for weight loss

What you must know: Taking Ozempic for weight loss

Ozempic, a drug designed to manage type 2 diabetes has become increasingly popular for weight loss. Here’s what you should know before getting curious.

The Found Team
November 29, 2022
5 min read
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It’s hard to believe that the history of medication-assisted weight loss spans more than a century. However, in the last two years, prescription drugs for weight loss have become part of the cultural zeitgeist. This is due, in part, to the media frenzy surrounding Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic® (semaglutide)—a medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. 

In addition to what it is prescribed for, health care providers prescribe Ozempic for weight loss off-label, which explains some of its popularity in mainstream media and social media. Everywhere you look, people seem to be taking Ozempic, wondering how they can get Ozempic, or educating themselves on non-GLP-1 alternatives that could help with their weight loss journey. 

It comes as no surprise: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 42% of Americans live with obesity. While the rise of GLP-1 receptor agonists (like Ozempic and Wegovy®, both name-brand medications for semaglutide manufactured by Novo Nordisk) has made the discussion around obesity as a chronic disease, more popular and it has also caused more persons to access the drug from persons who may not be experts in obesity treatment. 

So, what does it mean to take Ozempic for weight loss? Found is an evidence-based weight loss clinic, and we’ve gathered all relevant information to give you our expert opinion. 

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic (one brand name for semaglutide) is a type 2 diabetes medication that’s part of the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs)* class of medicines. 

These drugs work like the GLP-1 hormone naturally produced in the gut, lowering blood sugar levels and enhancing insulin release, which is crucial for people with type 2 diabetes. It helps curb hunger and slows digestion, helping people feel full longer. As a result, some people with obesity have lost weight while taking it

What’s more, semaglutide has been shown to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke, or death in adults with type 2 diabetes and known heart disease, according to multiple clinical trials funded by Novo Nordisk.  Importantly, some patients have reported reduced cravings while using semaglutide for weight loss.

The most significant difference between Ozempic and Wegovy is that Wegovy can be prescribed at a higher dose and is FDA-approved for weight management; Ozempic is FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes and reduce risk of heart disease, but it’s also prescribed off-label for weight loss. The list price for Ozempic is $935.77 for a one-month supply. 

With such a high price tag, you may be wondering, "is there a generic Ozempic for weight loss?" Unfortunately, there is no generic version of Ozempic currently on the market. However, there are alternatives to using Ozempic off-label for weight loss such as Wegovy, Zepbound™, Mounjaro,® or Saxenda®. These are all GLP-1 medications. Of those, Mounjaro is the only one that isn’t FDA-approved for weight loss. 

But GLP-1s don’t work for everyone when it comes to weight loss. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan tailored to your needs. Found’s clinical team will design a treatment plan personalized to your unique biology.  Prescription medication is often an option. These may include more easily accessible and cost-effective non-GLP-1 drugs like metformin, bupropion, or naltrexone.   

Like all medications, it’s important to understand the risks of taking medication for weight loss. Common side effects of GLP-1s and metformin include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and acid reflux. A more serious but less common side effect of metformin is lactic acidosis, which can result in death, hypothermia, hypotension, and resistant bradyarrhythmias. Studies show taking metformin long-term may, in rare cases, lead to complications such as pancreatitis, hepatitis, abnormal blood clotting, abnormal vitamin B12 levels, and reactive hypoglycemia. Find detailed side effects and risk information for specific medications here.

Can Ozempic help you lose weight and is it right for you?

Ozempic is not specifically approved by the FDA for weight loss, but it encourages   weight loss by slowing digestion. This causes people to feel fuller longer after they eat. It also affects how the body regulates its appetite, and can help to manage feeling full after eating. 

There may be a reason for the media buzz. Semaglutide (brand name Ozempic) can be a game-changer when used off-label to support weight loss for chronic weight management in those who’ve tried everything to lose weight.

However, when deciding whether Ozempic is suitable for your weight loss goals, it’s important to review the potential side effects. Also consider recent supply shortages, and the rise in insurance companies refusing to pay for the drug in some instances or requiring step therapy.

The side effects people experience while taking semaglutide (such as Ozempic or Wegovy), are most commonly gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. 

Although extremely rare, more serious Ozempic and Wegovy side effects include:

  • Possible thyroid tumors, including thyroid cancer
  • Low blood sugar
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Kidney problems
  • Allergic reactions
  • Changes in vision

Wegovy and Ozempic also come with a black box warning, noting that semaglutide has been shown to cause thyroid C-cell tumors in rodents. However, it’s unknown if it also does so in people. Those with a family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) or Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2) shouldn’t take semaglutide.

Finally, if you’re wondering who can prescribe Ozempic for weight loss or weight management, it’s important to remember that obesity medicine is a developing field, and many doctors are not experts in this science. Found offers access to physicians trained in obesity medicine and who know how to personalize a prescription and treatment plan for you.

To support personalized treatment, new members to Found can take a MetabolicPrint assessment, a proprietary tool that Found-affiliated physicians use to identify each person’s biological blockers to weight loss and customize a treatment plan for his or her unique profile.  

“Our desire is that our clinically rigorous approach can help inspire and inform the establishment of obesity care clinical guidelines,” says Rekha Kumar, MD, Found’s chief medical officer and a former medical director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. “[This] would encourage a full evaluation of a patient’s medical history and biological and lifestyle factors,” explains Dr. Kumar, “and then tailoring a treatment approach to what is best for the patient based on those factors, rather than simply writing a prescription for the latest medications irrespective of expense and access factors.” 

How quickly will I lose weight on Ozempic?

With a first dose of 0.25 mg of semaglutide for weight loss, you may notice blood glucose levels dropping after the first week. However,  the full effect for weight loss can take four or five weeks. This usually happens after your physician has increased your dose. The manufacturer says that Ozempic’s effectiveness varies from person to person. Results may take longer, depending on personal factors such as age, weight, the amount of fluid in the body, kidney and liver health, and other medications. 

This shows that the results from using weight loss medication is based on your body works.  GLP-1 medications like Ozempic or Wegovy don’t work for everyone. With Found, over 90 percent of members experience weight loss success on non-GLP-1 prescription medications as part of a treatment plan that addresses their unique medical, biological, and behavioral patterns. 

If you’re considering taking a GLP-1 like Ozempic or Wegovy to manage obesity or to lose weight, plan to use the medication alongside lifestyle changes that’s tailored to your unique lifestyle and roadblocks. You may need to makes changes to your sleep, stress, eating, and movement habits (among others), to keep the weight off once you come off the medication.

In fact, studies suggest that long-term use of Ozempic after weight loss is likely necessary. A year-long extension study completed after a 68-week clinical trial revealed that participants who stopped their weekly injections of 2.4 mg of semaglutide regained two-thirds of their initial weight loss. 

In addition, a study published in 2022 in the journal Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism noted the chronic nature of obesity and suggested that ongoing treatment is required to maintain improvements in weight and health.  

Bottom line: People who have obesity may need to take medication long-term for sustainable weight management. 

Our verdict: Taking Ozempic for weight loss

A well-tailored weight loss treatment plan can include medications like Ozempic and semaglutide, which has been proven to drive weight loss for some. Ultimately, a health care provider will partner with you to determine if Ozempic for weight loss is right for you or if another medication might be a better fit. 

It’s important to add a lifestyle change component to your medication-assisted weight loss program to have a better chance of sustaining the weight loss after you taper off the medication.

For many, taking GLP-1 medications like Ozempic is a long-term commitment to ensure proper chronic obesity management.

GLP-1*

GLP-1 prescriptions, filled through your local pharmacy, are now available as part of Found's weight-loss toolkit. While GLP-1s are effective for weight loss, they are not clinically appropriate for everyone. Eligibility for a GLP-1 is based on a thorough evaluation of your medical history, eating behavior, lab work, and insurance coverage. If a GLP-1 is not appropriate for you, our providers will work with you to determine an effective medication for your health profile.

About Found

To discover your MetabolicPrint and start your journey with Found, take our quiz. Found is among the largest medically supported weight care clinics in the country, having served more than 200,000 members to date.

Published date:
November 29, 2022
Meet the author
The Found Team
The Found Team

Sources

  • Ozempic. June 2022. Ozempic Side Effects. https://www.ozempic.com/how-to-take/side-effects.html
  • Ozempic semaglutide injection. Oct. 2022. OZEMPIC® (semaglutide) injection, for subcutaneous use Initial U.S. Approval: 2017. Highlights of Prescribing information. https://www.novo-pi.com/ozempic.pdf
  • Ozempic semaglutide injection. Oct. 2022. Frequently asked questions about Ozempic® (semaglutide) injection. https://www.novomedlink.com/diabetes/products/treatments/ozempic/about/frequently-asked-questions.html
  • Wilding JPH, Batterham RL, Calanna S, Davies M, Van Gaal LF, Lingvay I, McGowan BM, Rosenstock J, Tran MTD, Wadden TA, Wharton S, Yokote K, Zeuthen N, Kushner RF; STEP 1 Study Group. Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or Obesity. N Engl J Med. 2021 Mar 18;384(11):989-1002. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33567185/
  • Wilding JPH, Batterham RL, Davies M, Van Gaal LF, Kandler K, Konakli K, Lingvay I, McGowan BM, Oral TK, Rosenstock J, Wadden TA, Wharton S, Yokote K, Kushner RF; STEP 1 Study Group. Weight regain and cardiometabolic effects after withdrawal of semaglutide: The STEP 1 trial extension. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2022 Aug;24(8):1553-1564. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35441470/
  • Semaglutide (Ozempic) Injection. 19 May 2023. FDA Drug Shortages. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/drugshortages/dsp_ActiveIngredientDetails.cfm?AI=Semaglutide%20(Ozempic)%20Injection&st=c
  • Bray GA, Purnell JQ. An Historical Review of Steps and Missteps in the Discovery of Anti-Obesity Drugs. [Updated 2022 Jul 10]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Blackman MR, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK581942/
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