Such is the claim of billionaire Elon Musk I help you to lose weight; Tabloid websites claim that many other stars use it to stay fit; and tiktok is full influential people Showing her amazing before and after pictures of her weight loss after using it.
What is it about? A drug called semaglutide, which is sold in the United States under various brand names including Ozempic and Vegovy. Both are marketed in Spain, but are subject to strict monitoring. The first one with the “black triangle alert”. The second was approved in late 2021 “as a complement to a hypocaloric diet and increased physical activity for weight control, including weight loss and maintenance,” according to the Spanish Medicines Agency.
There are already several media outlets in Spain that have echoed this use of the drug for diabetes and some centers even advertise it as a solution to being overweight. But, in the United States they have already gone to the next level and this is starting to become a problem.
These drugs have led to a shortage of both, which is expected to last for several months, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, raising alarm among diabetics who rely on Ozempic to control their blood sugar levels. Let’s trust Experts caution that it is important to understand that these are not miracle drugs and that there are risks in taking them off-label.
Here’s what you need to know about semiglutide, including how it works and its risks.
What is the science behind the medicine?
Semaglutide helps lower blood sugar by mimicking a hormone naturally released when you eat a meal, says Ariana Chao, MD, medical director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania. Given as an injection, this drug helps people feel full for longer, controls appetite, and reduces hunger and cravings.
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There is a lot of demand for this medicine in America. In 2019, more than 11 percent of the population was diagnosed with diabetes, while in 2020 more than four in 10 adults were obese. In Spain, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health “diabetes affects between 5 and 10% of the general population.
In 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Ozempic for use in individuals with type 2 diabetes. These patients often have low levels of insulin, a hormone that helps break down food into fuel, says Chao. Ozempic prompts the pancreas to make more insulin, which helps to control blood sugar levels and also reduces glucagon, a hormone that increases sugar levels. This may lead to weight loss, but experts note that Ozempic is not approved for this purpose.
Vegovy was approved just last year for overweight or obese patients, the first drug since 2014 to be approved for chronic weight control. The difference between the two drugs is that Vegovy is administered with a higher dose of semaglutide than Ozempic; Clinical trials have shown greater weight loss but only modest improvements in glycemic control at this high dose, Chao notes.
What are the risks?
Like all medicines, it can also have drawbacks. The most common side effects are gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, constipation and diarrhea, Chao says, and rarely, pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, and diabetic retinopathy.
These drugs have been studied extensively, but their relatively recent approval means that researchers do not yet know what the long-term effects of taking them are. There is little data about what happens when people suddenly stop taking them, which amid the current shortage may be forcing many people to do so.
Research suggests that patients may regain weight after stopping the use of this medicine, especially if they have not made any lifestyle changes.
“In almost all studies on weight loss, it really depends on your baseline,” says Stanford endocrinologist Sun Kim. “Your lifestyle efforts will determine how much weight you lose. If you have the basics in place like food, exercise, and sleep, you’ll be fine.” If not, you can regain up to 20 percent of the weight lost each year.
In the United States, these drugs can also be incredibly expensive, especially without insurance. Kim says that an injectable pen can cost more than 1,000 euros.
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What does off-label use mean?
Off-label use of a drug means using a drug in a way other than its intended and FDA-approved purpose, which may not be safe or effective. Ozempic is approved only for type 2 diabetics, and Vegovy only for patients with a BMI greater than 30, or 27 if they have a weight-related co-morbidity, such as high blood pressure.
“There is no scientific evidence to show that this drug will be effective or beneficial for people who do not meet the criteria for the indications on the FDA-approved label,” says Chao. “We also don’t know the side effects or risks in these populations: There may be unknown reactions to the drug.” Obesity is an incurable disease. These drugs are not meant for quick fixes.”
Even if the criteria are met, experts caution against attempting to obtain the drug without a prescription by traveling to countries that do not require it.
“When the drug is not used under the supervision of a health care professional, it can be abused,” says Chao. “There can be more serious adverse effects.”
Experts also argue that given the difficulty of finding Ozempic, priority should be given to patients with diabetes: “What I worry about, and I hope this is only temporary,” says Kim, is the supply chain. is the issue of.” “If I were to triage and prioritize, I would probably favor someone who is managing their diabetes to receive it; I would prefer it to be available to those who need it.”
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Robert Gabbe, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association, says the organization is “very concerned” about the lack of Ozempic.
“Medication has been an important tool for people with diabetes,” he says. “Not only does it lower blood sugar and weight, but it has also been shown to reduce cardiovascular events (heart attacks), one of the leading causes of death for people with diabetes.”
a last resort?
Still, Kim says that prescribing drugs like Ozempic and Vegovy to patients desperate for a new approach to weight loss can make them feel “like superheroes.” When patients come to her, they often try methods like following the advice of weight watchers and dieticians. In that case, he says, drugs like Ozempic and Vigovi may be a great option.
“What I’ve found is that sometimes, as they’re having weight-loss success, it’s reflected in their lifestyle, and then they’re able to be more active,” says Kim. “Weight loss is hard. 75% of the American population is overweight or obese. I think we shouldn’t delay if it can help.”
Chao agrees that these drugs are a good option for people who can’t lose 5 percent of their body weight in about three months after making lifestyle changes. Still, he recommends trying those methods before resorting to medication.
Patients “should make sure they are focusing on healthy dietary patterns, cutting calories as well as increasing physical activity as a first line,” he says. “It’s important for them to know that even if they take medication, it’s not going to be an easy way out: They have to continue to make lifestyle changes.”