While medication-assisted weight loss is decades old, it has recently moved to the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist via the popularity of two medications—Wegovy® and Ozempic®. The media coverage for these GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist) medications has been exhaustive in the last year. As Ozempic’s rumored weight loss effects spread across social media, consumer demand for the medication rose rapidly. The news-fueled frenzy around Ozempic has since turned into supply issues, a rise in questionable prescribing practices, and a decrease in the drug’s coverage by many insurance policies.
But what are Ozempic and Wegovy, and how do they work for weight loss? We're Found, a doctor-designed weight loss program that uses proprietary technology to match members with the right medication. We’ve gathered all available resources to help you understand the difference between these two medications for weight loss. Let’s get into it.
Semaglutide medications belong to a class called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1s) receptor agonists. Semaglutide drugs work for weight loss by mimicking the GLP-1 gut hormone. This hormone sends signals to the brain, slowing digestion to help people feel full. This process reduces appetite, which can help people lose weight.
More on Wegovy
Even though Wegovy and Ozempic share the same ingredient, there are important differences.
One of the main differences is that Wegovy is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chronic weight management in patients with excess weight and obesity. Combined with lifestyle changes like diet and physical activity, Wegovy treats patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater or a BMI of 27 or greater with at least one weight-related medical condition like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. A study published in August 2023 shows Wegovy may also help lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Wegovy is a once-weekly injectable medication; its full dose is 2.4 mg.
You inject the medication in the pre-filled pen subcutaneously into your upper arm, upper thigh, or stomach. The suggested weekly injection dosing schedule is as follows:
Dosages for Wegovy
Month one: 0.25 mg/ week
Month two: 0.5 mg/ week
Month three: 1 mg/ week
Month four: 1.7 mg/ week
Month five (and beyond): 2.4 mg/ week (maximum dose)
It’s worth noting that the FDA reported that lower doses of Wegovy are in short supply.
More on Ozempic
Ozempic is FDA-approved to support glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes (as is Wegovy in those with excess weight or obesity). Ozempic is also FDA-approved to help lower the risk of major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke in these patients. Physicians prescribe Ozempic off-label to treat clinically-defined excess weight and obesity, usually in those who have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Ozempic is a once-weekly injectable medication, and its max dose is 2 mg.
Like Wegovy, you inject the medication in the pre-filled pen under your skin into your upper arm, upper thigh, or stomach. The suggested weekly injection dosing schedule is as follows:
Dosages for Ozempic
First four weeks: 0.25 mg/ week
Weeks 5-8: 0.5 mg/ week
Weeks 9-12: 1 mg/ week
Week 13 (and beyond): 2 mg/ week (maximum dose)
Novo Nordisk recommends both the Wegovy and Ozempic dosing schedules. Your Found clinician can help determine the right dosage for you and instruct you on how to use Wegovy or Ozempic. Remember that not everyone responds the same to medications, and dosing changes may differ due to side effects experienced or average blood sugar levels for the previous 2-3 months (HbA1c).
Wegovy has shown meaningful weight loss results in 1,961 adults with obesity or overweight who were given a 2.4 mg semaglutide dosage in a clinical trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Of those participants, the average loss was about 15% of body weight over 68 weeks compared to 2.4% in the placebo group.
A 2022 study, published in JAMA Network Open compared weight loss in patients who were given different doses of semaglutide. Out of 175 patients, 44% of them received the highest doses of semaglutide (similar to Wegovy’s doses of 1.7 and 2.4 mg). The other patients received the lower doses (like Ozempic or Wegovy at 0.25, 0.5, and 1 mg). After three months, the patients receiving the highest doses lost about 7% of their body weight, while those on the lowest doses lost about 5%. Both groups continued to lose weight over time with the sustained use of semaglutide in combination with a healthy diet and exercise.
Deciding between Ozempic and Wegovy is up to you and your health care provider. Both drugs share the same active ingredient, and both are effective for weight management. However, as the labeling for Ozempic and Wegovy asserts, it’s important to pair any weight loss drug with behavioral changes, like a healthy diet and exercise. Taking care of your mental health is important, too. Obesity is a disease that needs to be cared for and treated with a comprehensive approach, no matter which medication you are prescribed.
Cost can be a barrier when considering Wegovy vs Ozempic vs. an alternative treatment. Even though obesity is a disease—and chronic weight management is often needed to treat it—Wegovy isn’t always covered by insurance and can be much more expensive than Ozempic or alternative treatments.
Wegovy’s list price is $1,349.02 per package, which is the out-of-pocket cost to the patient if their insurance doesn’t cover the medication. The manufacturer does have a Savings Offer on this medication, much like some of the other medications in its class, but patients looking to claim a discounted price on the first few boxes of the medication must have commercial drug insurance.
On the other hand, Ozempic is a type 2 diabetes medication, so it’s often covered by insurance plans if prescribed for its indicated use. However, when prescribed off-label to treat overweight and obesity, coverage varies greatly. In fact, Found’s members have seen a decline in coverage for drugs like Ozempic in the last few months as insurers struggle to cover the demand.
For those paying cash, Ozempic’s list price is $935.77 for a month’s supply. A savings program is also in place for this medication, so consult the manufacturer’s website to see if you qualify. Much like Wegovy, this medication requires commercial drug insurance to qualify for the offer.
If you’re convinced that a GLP-1 medication is right for you, talk to your Found clinician about step therapy. Ultimately, a provider trained in obesity should prescribe a medication that matches your needs. However, if you find that non-GLP-1 drugs aren’t helping you lose weight, you may find it easier to unlock coverage for a GLP-1 if you have a record of trying other medications.
There are other medications that work similarly to Ozempic and Wegovy, including Saxenda® and Victoza®, both brand names for liraglutide, and Mounjaro®, a brand name for tirzepatide. Liraglutide and semaglutide are GLP-1 receptor agonists, while Mounjaro is a GLP-1/GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) dual agonist.
There is also a pill version of semaglutide available, Rybelsus®, that’s used for treating type 2 diabetes. (It’s also prescribed off-label for excess weight and obesity.) If needles and the idea of weekly semaglutide injections put you off, Rybelsus may be a better option.
Found’s medication toolkit also has a variety of non-GLP-1 medications, which can be much more cost-effective and easily accessible. Ultimately, discovering which medication is right for you is a conversation to have with your provider because every person’s biology and root cause of excess weight is different—and so is the medication that unlocks success for you.
As with other prescription medications, Ozempic and Wegovy have side effects. Some of the most common side effects of semaglutide, liraglutide, and tirzepatide are nausea, constipation, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea. More serious but less common side effects of these drugs include:
pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
worsening of diabetic eye disease
And GLP-1s like Ozempic and Wegovy, as well as similar medications (Saxenda, Victoza, Rybelsus, and the GLP-1/GIP Mounjaro), come with a black box warning issued by the FDA that you shouldn’t take the medication if you have a family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) or Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2). You can find detailed side effects and risk information for specific GLP-1 medications here.
Additionally, you should avoid alcohol while taking semaglutide and other GLP-1s. If you are taking a diabetes medication, have a discussion with your prescribing physician before taking any of these medications, as diabetes medication may need to be adjusted as you lose weight. Do not take this medication if you plan to become pregnant, are pregnant, or are nursing.
Obesity is a chronic condition that needs to be treated like other chronic diseases. Many people will likely need medication to maintain weight loss. And this isn’t a bad thing. Obesity is a complex, relapsing disease you can manage through medication and lifestyle changes for long-term results.
If you stop taking semaglutide, you may regain the weight you’ve lost or risk losing glycemic control if you have diabetes. It’s important to continue taking semaglutide unless otherwise directed by your health care provider.
These medications have the same active ingredient and have a similar safety profile. They are both experiencing supply shortages, and coverage for both drugs varies from policy to policy. Ozempic and Wegovy must be taken for extended periods alongside lifestyle changes in order to achieve long-term results.
Our final take on these medications is that the best medication is the one that matches your unique biology. You may experience side effects with one that you wouldn’t see with the other. Or you might find that neither of these drugs helps you lose weight. You won’t know until you try, but from our perspective, these are both excellent options.
If you find that a GLP-1 medication doesn’t help you, there are a variety of options on the market to pick from based on your profile. Your Found provider will be able to guide you through your options and craft a lifestyle change plan that will maximize your results.
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.
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.