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How does Ozempic work?

“Oh, oh, oh, Ozempic,” croon the voices of a frequently aired commercial for the Type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic produced by Novo Nordisk. The jingle is to the melody from “Magic” from the band Pilot from the 1970s. It’s fitting: With its reported capability to trigger rapid weight loss as an adverse consequence of blood sugar management Ozempic is hailed as a miracle treatment by those who are knowledgeable. “Patients think it’s a magic medication,” says New York dermatologic surgeon Paul Jarrod Frank, MD as well as other doctors, has been repeatedly asked about it staggering frequency. “Other to Viagra and Botox I’ve never seen other medication so quickly become part of contemporary culture’s social vernacular.”

That’s no exaggeration. The phrase “post-Ozempic figure” is trending and being often discussed on social media as well as IRL as speculation rages about following any significant and well-publicized weight loss. The month before, Elon Musk claimed Wegovy, a similar drug and one of the causes behind his slimmer appearance (fasting was another); Andy Cohen tweeted about #Ozempic in September, which has garnered more than 274 million visits on TikTok; and it’s been widely believed it was because Kim Kardashian relied on the drug for dramatic weight loss in order to get into Marilyn Monroe’s famous Wiggle Dress at the Met Gala. Whether celebrities admit to taking it (or not), Google searches for Ozempic are rising, indicating the insatiable need to learn more about its rapid slimming effects.

With the trend of slimness dominating the fashion scene once more (some may argue that it has never truly gone away) It’s an indication of how easily weight gain can be altered by the trends. However, the fact that a lot of people are willing to expose themselves to regular injections as well as potentially unpleasant side effects in the name of fitting into a specific size body is alarming to put it mildly. “I worry about the body distortion, dysmorphia and the precedent we’re setting for young women already exposed to unrealistically filtered versions that are portrayed as beautiful,” according to LA’s Cosmetic Dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD. Nancy Rahnama, MD, an internist board-certified and obesity-medicine specialist in Private practice located in Beverly Hills, agrees: Celebrities using, or rather using these drugs for weight loss–not to improve their health, but rather to attain their ideal shape–is very problematic because of the propagation of the culture of weight loss, according to Dr. Rahnama. In a world where slimming waistlines are often confused with health, what precisely, is this perpetually name-checked class of drugs and who should, and perhaps more importantly, shouldn’t–be using them?

How do you define Ozempic?

Semaglutide, one of the main ingredients in Ozempic is part of a class of medicines known as GLP-1 agonists. They mimic the hormone we make in our intestines . This hormone is released after we start eating. “Semaglutide increases insulin release in response to the intake of glucose and results in a slight delay in gastric emptying,” says Ariana Chao, MD, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and medical director of the school’s Center of Weight and Eating Disorders. “It also affects the areas of the brain that are involved in regulating appetite and food intake. The medication also increases your body’s sensitivity to the insulin you create on your own, adds Holly Lofton, MD, an associate professor of clinical medicine in the department of medicine and surgery as well as director of the Medical Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Health. “By doing that,” explains Dr. Lofton, “it helps your body’s fat cells reduce as time passes.” Novo Nordisk produces both the semaglutide Ozempic and Wegovy, which, while licensed for two different uses they are actually similar. “Semaglutide 1 mg (Ozempic) is a weekly injection FDA approved to treat diabetes from 2017. A dose of 2 mg was approved in the beginning of 2022,” says W. Scott Butsch, MD, MSc, director of obesity medicine in the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at Cleveland Clinic. “Wegovy is higher dose of semaglutide every week (2.4 mg) that was approved for the treatment of obesity in the month of July 2021.”

Do you know if Ozempic certified by FDA for weight loss?

The exact wording is not. Wegovy is approved for weight loss in adults aged 18 or over with the body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher or a BMI of 27 or more with a comorbidity for example, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. (A recent study demonstrates its efficacy and safety for adolescents , too.) “Wegovy is the start of an entirely new class of anti-obesity medicines that proved highly effective,” says Dr. Butsch. “Its 12.4 percent body weight loss in its 68-week-long randomized controlled study of over 1,900 participants who had an average body mass index of 37 was more effective than all of the existing treatments for obesity. In addition, more than half of the study group (55 percent) lost more than 15% body weight and 35% lost more than 20 percent.” But since Ozempic has historically been more easy to get than Wegovy and other medications, many people are using this specific semaglutide for obesity “leading to non-approved use” states the doctor. Rahnama. The fact that it’s self-administered at home with injections, once a week into the abdomen, thigh or upper arm — has contributed to its proliferation, especially during the epidemic.

How, exactly, does Ozempic perform?

In the simplest terms it stops the appetite and tricked the body to feel full. “When naturally created in the body, the hormone [that Ozempic mimics] only keeps us full for a couple of hours, whereas in the form of medication, the feeling of fullness is appreciated for 24 hours,” says Dr. Rahnama. Each time you use it, you’ll feel the sensation of fullness for six or seven days, and it will compound over time. “I have patients who say that they can eat just one-third of what they usually consume and feel content, spend longer without eating and don’t snack anymore,” says Dr. Lofton. Studies of Wegovy have proven to be safe to manage weight even for teenagers according to a clinical trial that was published within The New England Journal of Medicine recently. When semaglutides are used appropriately, says the doctor. Rahnama, appetite is not fully controlled, but it is managed. However, when they are used improperly, an appetite can be completely suppressed, which can cause or worsen eating disorders.

Are there any side effects or risks involved with Ozempic?

Yes. The most frequent side effects of Ozempic are, as outlined in the ads’ fine print, digestive. Constipation and nausea and loose stools have been frequently reported and can, for some, may lead to the termination of the drug. “Rare but serious adverse reactions that have been observed for semaglutide include an inflammation in the pancreas, diabetes kidney disease, retinopathy gallbladder troubles, as well as the occurrence of allergic reactions” according to Dr. Chao. There are some instances where Ozempic isn’t recommended: It’s not advised for anyone pregnant or breastfeeding or with any family or personal background of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple tumors of the endocrine system.

What is the length of time you are expected to stay on Ozempic?

Since Ozempic is a medication that is used to treat a chronic disease and is not intended to be taken off. “Ozempic treats patients who have diabetes, therefore it is meant to be taken indefinitely,” says Dr. Rahnama. “If the medication is stopped and patients return to their normal eating routines because of their appetites increasing then they’ll recover any weight loss and return to their previous blood sugar levels.” Medications that treat obesity are the same as those for treating high blood cholesterol or high pressure as stated by doctor. Butsch: Long-term control of the disease depends on the drug. “A quick-term treatment is the consequence of the misperception in the fact that obesity can be a disease and that’s why medication is only needed for short-term effect,” Dr. Butsch says. Obesity, according to the Dr. Butsch, is often seen as a lifestyle decision, with medication acting as”management tools. “This is an outdated belief, though. We are well-versed in controlling energy levels and body weight as well as the heritability of obesity to know that it’s not that simple,” continues Dr. Butsch. “While I am concerned regarding the possibility that this medication (as well like Wegovy and Mounjaro) will be used for people who don’t have indications, I think the acceptance of these medications and other similar drugs over the coming years will increase awareness of the complex nature of obesity and weight regulation that will reduce previous beliefs that been the basis for this diet culture.”

What happens when you take off Ozempic?

Research is abounding on the effectiveness of Ozempic however, since it’s an extremely new drug There isn’t any study yet that focuses on the long-term impact of taking it. When you have stopped taking it however, you may have a return to your weight and blood-sugar levels. This is the reason why nutritionists like Charles Passler, DC, underscore the simultaneous importance of nutrition choices and lifestyle while taking the medication. It is Dr. Passler, who approaches weight loss holistically, helps his patients with the Ozempics to change the way they’re eating so they can benefit from the fat loss this injection provides while maintaining muscle. He also stresses breathwork biofeedback, stress-management as well as sleep, which he believes are helpful in maintaining and strengthening eating a healthy lifestyle. Close monitoring of all patients when they are taking Ozempic is also key, says the doctor. Lofton, which is why using the medication of a friend or getting it from a medi-spa is worrisome: prescribing by unexperienced doctors is a serious issue Dr. Lofton says. “It should only be taken under medical supervision as there’s still that risk of adverse effects which could lead to you being in the hospital,” adds Dr. Lofton noting that reports that are being reported in the media about people who have experienced intense vomiting could be an indication of the drug’s gross misuse. “It should not cause you to feel this way,” adds Dr. Lofton, explaining that anyone in this situation should have stopped using and had their dose drastically lowered, and/or had an examination sonogram. “Doctors who understand the mechanisms of the drug and who have the time to keep track of patients regularly and appropriately should be the only doctors who prescribe this medication,” says Dr. Rahmana.

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Who should be using Ozempic (and who shouldn’t)?

Although the FDA guidelines on Ozempic’s use to treat Type 2 diabetes are there However, doctors are prescribing Ozempic off-label, which is, in fact, is a very common practice in the field of medicine. However, this isn’t without cause for concern to doctors like Dr. Chao: “I do worry about prescribing semaglutide off-label since the drug hasn’t been thoroughly studied in people without Type 2 diabetes or in individuals who do not have obesity.” There are a lot of medical experts are worried that it’s simply being over- or inappropriately prescribed. “If someone just wants to lose a few pounds and I’m talking about, come on, this isn’t the right thing to do for them,” says Dr. Passler. Making use of BMI as a factor for who qualifies poses problems of its own. “BMI is not perfect, and it does not directly relate to morbidity or death,” says Dr. Lofton, who often relies on other health indications like waist circumference to determine if a patient has a high-fat diet and is at high risk for heart disease.

Could Ozempic’s overprescription cause a shortage for those that really need it?

Yes. Within The first few months following Wegovy being approved as an option for treating obesity in the month of July 2021 There were shortages of supplies because of demand and manufacturing, according to Dr. Butsch, which led many to use Ozempic in its place. “Many new doctors were employing lower doses semaglutide for treating obesity, and this obviously snowballed into the occurrence of supply shortages for patients who are taking Ozempic for diabetes despite the approval of the 2 mg dose in the early part of 2022,” Dr. Butsch continues. “There is now a risk for those patients who have been using this medication for many years for blood-sugar control and are unable receive the medication due to its ineffective use,” adds Dr. Rahmana. There’s currently a shortage of both Ozempic and Wegovy for diabetes patients who depend on them to keep their blood-sugar levels manageable–and for those hoping for an off-label drug.