Reading the words “weight-loss shot” can evoke skeptical thoughts, such as “do they even work?” or “are they safe?” It can leave you with other questions like “what weight-loss shot options are out there?” And “can they help you lose weight?”
Shots for weight loss have been a hot topic lately for treating obesity and trying to find a weight management program to go along with any new meds can be exhausting in your seemingly never-ending search.
So, no matter what end of the spectrum you’re on—whether you’re thinking about giving them a shot (pun intended) or have heard about them but prefer to try a pill first—we’ve got you covered.
Here’s a list of five once-weekly injectable meds and what we know about them.
Ozempic (semaglutide) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017 for treating type 2 diabetes. It’s been used recently for off-label treatment of overweight and obesity. This shot for weight loss is part of the drug class glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. GLP-1 is a hormone known as an incretin produced in the gut in response to food. It helps lower blood sugar levels and control appetite. It also works with the pancreas to encourage the release of insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. Meds like semaglutide mimic the GLP-1 hormone in the body, helping to support weight loss.
Effectiveness: In September 2022, the JAMA Network Open published a study of 175 patients on the effects of once-weekly semaglutide at higher doses (1.7 mg and 2.4 mg) or lower doses (0.25 mg, 0.50 mg and 1 mg) over three and six months. The outstanding results showed that after three months, the average body weight loss was 6.9 percent at the highest doses and 5.1 percent for those receiving the lower doses. At six months, participants lost an average of 12.1 percent of body weight in the higher dose group and 9.2 percent in the lower dose group. Meaning weight loss occurred regardless of dosing.
Availability: Semaglitude was in short supply last year, but Ozempic manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, asserts now there are only intermittent supply disruptions at the lower doses, and you should be able to get it, depending on where you live. Keep in mind that Ozempic is indicated for treating type 2 diabetes. When prescribed for its intended use, most health insurance companies and Medicare cover 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)
Common side effects: Nausea, constipation, stomach pain, vomiting
Wegovy is a GLP-1 weight-loss shot and has the same active ingredient as Ozempic—semaglutide. Unlike Ozempic, the FDA approved it in June 2021 for chronic weight management in the treatment of adults with obesity, a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, or overweight with a BMI of 27 or greater and at least one weight-related condition like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol. Wegovy has a higher dose of semaglutide than Ozempic and works to control hunger and support weight loss.
Effectiveness: In a 68-week trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2021, participants who received a once-weekly 2.4-mg dose of semaglutide lost an average of 14.9 percent of their body weight compared to the placebo group’s 2.4 percent. During the trial, those who received the semaglutide also showed improved risk factors regarding cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.
Availability: As of December 28, 2022, Novo Nordisk announced that all dose strengths of Wegovy are available in the United States. They did note that you may “experience normal delays given the time required to order the weight-loss shot from their local distribution center, and geographical variabilities.” Since many insurers don’t cover obesity, check with your insurance carrier to see if you have coverage.
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)
Common side effects: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, stomach (abdomen) pain, headache, tiredness (fatigue), upset stomach, dizziness, feeling bloated, belching, gas, stomach flu, and heartburn.
In December 2014, liraglutide, known under its brand name Saxenda, was FDA-approved for chronic weight management (it was approved in the US in 2010 for treating type 2 diabetes). Manufactured by Novo Nordisk, it also belongs to the GLP-1 drug class, and it’s meant to be used in combination with healthy lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.
Effectiveness: In 2017, in the journal Obesity Science & Practice, a review of five randomized, placebo-controlled trials, found that “in addition to recommended diet and physical activity, liraglutide consistently resulted in a 4 to 6 kg weight loss, with a greater proportion of patients achieving at least 5 and 10% weight loss compared with placebo.”
Availability: Saxenda is available through a prescription from your health care provider in any pharmacy in the United States that carries the obesity med.
Week one: 0.6 mg
Week two: 1.2 mg
Week three: 1.8 mg
Week four: 2.4 mg
Week five: 3.0 mg (full dose)
Common side effects: nausea, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, injection site reaction, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), headache, tiredness (fatigue), dizziness, stomach pain, and change in enzyme (lipase) levels in your blood. If the side effect are unmanageable, your provider may change you from Saxenda to another medication.
Manufactured by Eli Lilly, Trulicity, also known under its generic name, dulaglutide, is a GLP-1 that is FDA-approved for treating type 2 diabetes but is regularly prescribed off-label as a weight-loss shot for those with overweight or obesity. Dulaglutide not only helps the pancreas release insulin when blood glucose levels are high after eating, but it also slows food movement through the stomach—known as gastric or stomach emptying—which can help you feel fuller longer.
Effectiveness: In a 52-week study published in March 2021 in Diabetes Care, 1,842 patients whose inadequately controlled type 2 diabetes was not adequately controlled by the diabetes drug metformin, were given once-weekly injections of dulaglutide at doses of 1.5 mg, 3.0 mg, or 4.5 mg. At 36 weeks, patients treated with the 4.5 mg dose of dulaglutide lost about 10 pounds compared to those on the 1.5 mg dose, who lost about 6 pounds.
Availability: As of February 15, 2023, the FDA has Trulicity on its list of drugs currently in shortage. Accessibility to this drug may be limited at this time.
The recommended starting dose for Trulicity is 0.75 mg, injected once weekly. After four weeks, the dose can be increased to 1.5 mg. Then if tolerated, doses can be increased by 1.5 mg every four weeks with a maximum dose of 4.5 mg weekly.
Common side effects: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, decreased appetite, indigestion, and fatigue.
Mounjaro (tirzepatide) is a one-of-a-kind drug. It’s the first to mimic two incretin hormones that help control blood sugar: glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP). So, it’s in a drug class all on its own, as it’s not just a GLP-1 like the others mentioned above. Like Trulicity, Eli Lilly manufactures Mounjaro, and it’s FDA-approved for treating type 2 diabetes; however, Lilly announced it’s close to being FDA approved for weight management.
Effectiveness: In a clinical trial funded by Eli Lilly and published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2022, 2,539 participants across multiple countries were given tirzepatide over 72 weeks. Patients lost up to 22.5 percent of their body weight—unprecedented results from a weight-loss med thus far.
Availability: The FDA announced at the end of January that the 5 mg and 10 mg doses of Mounjaro are in shortage. As of February 15, tirzepatide remains scarce. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist for more information on the availability in your area.
Starting dose (for four weeks): 2.5 mg once weekly
Month two (four weeks): 5 mg once weekly
For additional glycemic control:
For at least four weeks: 7.5 mg once weekly
For at least four weeks: 10 mg once weekly
For at least four weeks: 12.5 mg once weekly
For at least four weeks: 15 mg once weekly (maximum dose)
Common side effects: nausea, diarrhea, decreased appetite, vomiting, constipation, indigestion, and stomach (abdominal) pain.
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.