In a recent interview, comedian Amy Schumer revealed she tried taking the Type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic for weight loss last year but was forced to stop after she developed serious side effects that left her feeling weak and fatigued. According to Healthline, the 43-year-old decided that Ozempic’s side effects were affecting her quality of life and that the drug wasn’t “livable” for her.
But its potentially nasty side effects do not seem to deter the great many of the drug’s followers. According to Forbes, pricey Ozempic has achieved tremendous popularity for its off-label use for weight loss. On TikTok alone, the medication has generated over 350 million views.
Ozempic, along with drugs like Wegovy and Mounjaro, belongs to a class of medications called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. They help the body manufacture more insulin, which helps lower blood sugar levels. They decrease appetite as well, so people tend to eat less food. While these drugs are generally safe, they can cause gastrointestinal side effects such as bloating, vomiting, stomach pain, and feeling full quickly. Some people experience constipation or diarrhea or new acid reflux symptoms and heartburn, says Healthline.
“If the vomiting and diarrhea are bad enough, it can result in dehydration and a possible hospital admission,” warns Dr. Jesse P. Houghton, senior medical director at SOMC Gastroenterology associates in Portsmouth, Ohio.
More serious potential side effects include inflammation of the pancreas and gallbladder, changes in vision, allergic reactions like skin rash, kidney problems, as well as the development of a certain type of thyroid cancer. Experts tell Forbes that patients younger than 18 years of age, pregnant individuals, those with a history of pancreatitis, people with Type 1 diabetes, diabetic retinopathy, or a family history of certain thyroid tumors should avoid taking Ozempic.
It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved Ozempic for weight loss —only for diabetes ─ and it should not be used for short-term weight loss so that you can fit into that outfit for your cousin’s wedding this summer. Ozempic was designed for the long-term treatment of diabetes since diabetes is a chronic, long-lasting disease. It’s also expensive, notes Dr. Gabe Mirkin, a board-certified physician from Orlando, Florida, costing about $900 a month.
Once you stop using Ozempic, the weight will come back on say medical experts, unless you have also included lifestyle changes in diet and exercise. Finally, while physicians can prescribe drugs for off-label use if they feel it helps their patients, the tsunami of people clamoring for Ozempic and its sister drugs, decreases the available supply for people with Type 2 diabetes who legitimately need it to control blood sugar levels and prolong their lives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37 million people suffer from diabetes, and between 90% and 95% of them have Type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, 88% of American adults diagnosed with diabetes use some form of medication to treat and control their illness. The more we use Ozempic for short-term weight loss, the less available it is for those who truly need it, says Forbes.
Always consult with your healthcare practitioner to weigh the risks and benefits of taking Ozempic, as well as its long-term consequences.
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