It’s that time of year when many people’s goals are starting to focus on weight loss. And chances are if you’ve been researching ways to accomplish that goal, you’ve heard of Ozempic. It’s gone viral on social media and even been dubbed “Hollywood’s new weight loss drug” by some national media outlets.
“Semaglutide, also known as Ozempic or Wegovy, has definitely become very popular over the last year because it was recently approved for weight loss,” Jessica Gonzalez Hernandez, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Bon Secours St. Francis, shares. “Patients were losing so much weight that everybody started to hear about it, and now everyone wants to take it.”
Did you know that Ozempic was originally approved as a treatment for type 2 diabetes? It works by helping the pancreas release the right amount of insulin when blood sugar levels are high. The injection can also slow the movement of food through the stomach, which researchers quickly discovered could have major benefits for another patient population.
“They noticed patients were losing a significant amount of weight,” Dr. Gonzalez adds. “Further study showed a higher dose of semaglutide (Wegovy) was very beneficial for weight loss, and it’s since been approved by the FDA for that purpose.”
The problem with more patients benefitting from this drug is the increased demand has led to a current shortage.
“A lot of people I talk to want to know why we’re using this medication for weight loss when it’s supposed to be for diabetes,” Dr. Gonzalez shares. “However, we have to understand that both diabetes and obesity are both chronic diseases and they both need it tremendously. If we used the medication for patients without obesity, that would be different, but for patients with obesity it’s definitely a necessity.”
It is important to note that Ozempic is likely not the best solution for the average person just hoping for a quick weight loss solution. The medication does come with several gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.
“Obesity is a chronic disease, meaning you have to treat it all the time,” Dr. Gonzalez explains. “So, for any patient who doesn’t modify their eating or physical activity habits, they’re at risk of regaining the weight. A patient with obesity always has to be cognizant that they have to make lifelong habit changes to help control their weight, and some need to be on medication long-term.”
According to Dr. Gonzalez, the treatment for obesity is not one size fits all.
“Everybody can say you should lose weight with diet and exercise, but that doesn’t work for everyone or if it does, it takes a long time. Patients who already have medical comorbidities, like diabetes or high blood pressure, are at risk of having those conditions worsen. So, it might be safer for them to have surgery to lose the weight and improve those medical comorbidities faster than trying medication or diet and exercise, because they could have a heart attack waiting for that weight loss to happen.”
At the end of the day, Ozempic is one of many other potential treatment options for those wanting to lead a healthier life. The key to success is finding the path that’s right for you.
“Every day, weight loss medications and surgery are becoming safer and helping patients have a healthier life,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “It’s very important to discuss with your primary care provider about what options you have for weight loss.”
Learn about the weight loss solutions we offer at Bon Secours.