Should You Take Ozempic and For How Long?
Ozempic has quickly become one of the most popular topics in society today. From celebrities like Oprah to social media influencers, there is no shortage of news about Ozempic. The fact that Ozempic can help people lose weight is well established. Yet there are still a lot of questions and even misgivings about Ozempic and drugs like it. People have questions like, what is Ozempic? Does it really work? Is it safe and how long do you have to be on it? Here some answers to these questions.
What is Ozempic? Ozempic is the brand name for a drug called Semaglutide. It was approved in 2017 by the FDA for the treatment of diabetes type 2. It belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 which stands for glucagon like peptide 1. Ozempic is not approved for weight loss. People who are not diabetic who use Ozempic for weight loss, are using it off label. However, Wegovy has the same drug as Ozempic, and it is approved for weight loss. It does come in a stronger dose than Ozempic. Other drugs that work in a similar manner as Ozempic are becoming available. These include Mounjaro and Zepbound.
How does Ozempic work? GLP-1 is a gut hormone that helps the pancreas to secrete insulin and reduce blood sugar levels. It also works on the appetite control center in the brain to reduce appetite. Additionally, it slows down stomach emptying which helps people stay full longer. The combination of feeling full longer and decrease in appetite cause people to eat less and therefore lose weight.
Does Ozempic work? Ozempic and drugs like it, are effective in helping people lose weight. Studies have shown that at the maintenance dose of Wegovy, people are able to lose 15% of their body weight compared to 3% with placebo. In my practice, we find that combining these medications with education and coaching often produce even better weight loss.
Is it safe? These drugs are generally safe, but they are not for everybody. It is contraindicated in people with history of medullary thyroid cancer or family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2. Also, should be avoided in people with pancreatitis. The main side effects include, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation. It is important to start at the lowest doses and gradually titrate up as tolerated. Some people are not able to tolerate the side effects and they should not be on it.
What is the cost? These drugs are rather expensive. The monthly cost could range from $1000.00 to $1,800.00 if you are paying out of pocket. With insurance it depends on your applicable copay. The biggest challenge right now, is that insurance coverage is spotty. Also because of the very high demand supply is not always reliable.
How long should you be on these drugs? This is a very pertinent question. Based on current experience and research, it appears that you need these drugs long term. Just like people take medications for diabetes or hypertension, for life, the treatment for obesity must be viewed the same way. Studies have shown that when you stop the medication, you regain the weight over time.
While there is currently no cure for obesity, I believe that a comprehensive approach to treatment offers the best hope to being able to get of medication. An approach that includes education, coaching and medical management. Education is important to learn more about the emerging science about what causes obesity and what works.
Treatment makes easier to do the things that work such as eating healthier, becoming more active, managing stress effectively, getting enough sleep, and learning to handle life’s challenges without resorting to food.
In the long run, the way to sustain these changes is by adopting healthy rituals. This requires repetition of activities and healthy choices long enough to become our default way of living. With focused attention and repetition, we create new brain pathways that can support our new identity. Left to our own devices, most of us quit too soon. This is where coaching is needed. Coaching provides motivation, support, and accountability to preserve until it becomes second nature.
If you are considering Ozempic or a drug like it, talk to your healthcare provider. You could also reach out to us at kudosweightloss.com. We would love to help you.
Ife Ojugbeli, MD, MBA, CPE, Dipl. ABOM.
Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Obesity Medicine.