An injectable miracle?
Celebrities’ glorification of pencil-thin bodies is seen as aspirational by millions of impressionable young people, and weight-loss treatment appears to have reached crazy heights.
Ozempic, a diabetes medication that increases insulin sensitivity and suppresses appetite, resulting in weight loss, has gained popularity on TikTok as a miracle method to get thin. Those in the medical fraternity believe that the increased demand for the drug is due to extensive prescribing for obesity management, a purpose for which Ozempic is not recommended.
Ozempic grew in popularity on social media around the time the US Food and Drug Administration approved Wegovy, another injectable semaglutide medication by Novo Nordisk, which also makes Ozempic, for management of chronic weight issues.
Does Ozempic really help in weight loss? Or is it just more false propaganda that emerged out of nowhere?
Dr K Subba Reddy, Critical Care Specialist at Apollo Health City
“In a large trial, people on Semaglutide (used to treat Type 2 diabetes and long-term weight management, sold under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic, among others, ) lost 15% of their initial body weight,” says Dr K Subba Reddy, Critical Care Specialist at Apollo Health City. “According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the recommended dose is 0.25 mg as a subcutaneous injection once a week for four weeks. Semaglutide reduced mean weight more than a placebo used in the study, after 68 weeks. Adults without diabetes who were overweight or obese lost clinically significant weight when semaglutide (2.4 mg) injections were combined with lifestyle changes,” he adds. After this study the use of Semaglutide has gone up tremendously, says Dr Subba Reddy.
Does it work?
“Semaglutide has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for chronic weight management in adults who are obese or overweight and have at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol, in addition to calorie restriction and increased physical activity, according to,”says Dr Sandeep Reddy, Senior Endocrinologist, Kamineni Hospitals.
What it takes to lose weight
A growing body of research shows that diets are not an effective way to lose weight and keep it off. Obesity is a complex disease… for most people, lifestyle modifications, diet, and exercise are just not enough. “Obesity is a serious health issue that has been linked to some of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as an increased risk of developing certain cancers. Semaglutide should be used for obesity management along with diet and exercise, not as sole treatment for obesity, and only on the advice of an endocrinologist,” adds Dr Sandeep.
A complex procedure
While patients’ expectations are high, the realities in taking these drugs can be complicated. “It should not be used in patients with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma, or in patients with Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type 2 (MEN 2). It should not be used those who have had severe allergic reactions to semaglutide or any of the other ingredients in the past,” says Dr Sandeep Reddy.
Beware of side-effects
Semaglutide frequently results in side effects. “It can lead to hive-like swellings on the face, lips, legs, and feet. Other side effects include headaches, rapid heartbeat and dark urine. It must be prescribed by a registered medical practitioner for people with Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure who have a BMI of more than 30. However, along with this medication, lifestyle changes and regular exercise must be maintained,” says Dr Subba Reddy.
Common side effects
* Nausea * Diarrhoea * Vomiting * Constipation * Abdominal (stomach) pain * Headache * Fatigue * Dyspepsia (indigestion), * Dizziness * Abdominal distension * Eructation (belching) * Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) * Flatulence (gas build-up) * Gastroenteritis (intestinal infection) * Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Boon for severely obese
Dr V. Mohan, Chief Diabetologist and Chairman of Dr. Mohans Diabetes Specialities Centre
In India, it is not approved as a pure weight loss drug, despite the fact that semaglutide has been shown in clinical studies to have profound weight loss, in some cases comparable to bariatric surgery. If bariatric surgeries can be avoided by using a tablet, it is a huge benefit and boon for those who are severely obese. Having said that, Ozempic and GLP 1 receptor analogues are currently prohibitively expensive and out of reach for the average person. If prices fall and generic versions become available, this may become affordable to the average person. Furthermore, an indication for using it solely as a weight loss agent is not yet available from the Indian drug controller, so its use should be limited to treating type 2 diabetes with obesity. — Dr V. Mohan, Chief Diabetologist and Chairman of Dr. Mohans Diabetes Specialities Centre
More harm than good
Deanne Panday, fitness expert and a lifestyle coach
“Personally, I am opposed to using any of these methods for routine weight loss or for people who do not have diabetes because they can be abused and cause more harm than good. Working out and eating well are the most effective ways to lose weight naturally. For diabetic patients, who are overweight or obese and pose a health risk, medication should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Rather than taking the easy route with pills, I advocate for hard work, dedication, and setting a goal for healthy weight loss. — Deanne Panday, fitness expert and a lifestyle coach