Who says there’s no magic weight loss pill? Ever since the FDA approved Semaglutide, weight loss industry experts called the drug the game changer that people with obesity have been waiting for. But are the long-term effects of the drug known?
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved Wegovy (semaglutide), the first and only once-weekly subcutaneous injectable drug for weight loss developed by the pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk on June 4, 2021, and the results have been very impressive thus far.
Since its introduction to the market, Semaglutide, has been considered something of a miracle weight loss drug. It’s so effective for obesity that a New York Times report said it may help patients who take it avoid obesity’s worst side effects including diabetes.
Semaglutide was actually originally approved for diabetes before it was authorized by the FDA for obesity. This marks the first time a weight-loss drug has been approved by the agency since 2014.
As Insider.com pointed out, demand for Wegovy (the brand name of semaglutide) has become so high that there are major shortages of the drug. And the drug itself is not cheap. In fact, if you are prescribed the drug for weight loss, there’s a good chance your health insurance company won’t cover it. That’s because most insurers do not cover the cost of weight-loss drugs. The drug costs approximately $1,500 out of pocket.
However, if the drug is prescribed for type 2 diabetes, it will likely be covered by your health insurance company.
Who Can Take Semaglutide?
Wegovy is for adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or more and who have at least one accompanying metabolic disorder related to obesity such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The injectable weight loss drug is also appropriate for people with obesity and a BMI of 30 or more without any other accompanying metabolic factors.
Is Exercise Necessary When Taking Wegovy?
Yes. The drug is meant to be taken in conjunction with exercise and a calorie-restricted diet.
How do you take Wegovy?
Once you have a prescription for the drug, you can inject yourself with a single-use pen once a week. You can inject yourself in the abdominal area, thigh or upper arm. The beginning dose of Wegovy is 0.25 mg. Every four weeks, the dose is increased. About five months after you begin taking the drug, the full dose of 2.4 mg is achieved.
How does Wegovy work?
Also known as Ozempic, Wegovy works thanks to a hormone that was discovered in the venom of a lizard called a Gila monster. Gila monster venom contains GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1). Wegovy contains a synthetically-derived version of this hormone that, like insulin, controls blood sugar levels.
GLP-1 also sends a signal to the brain that the body is no longer hungry. Thus, Wegovy, by mimicking GLP-1, can mimic satiety hormones.
Does research show it works?
The March 18, 2021 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine shows the published clinical trial results of a study on semaglutide from Northwestern University that involved almost 2,000 participants.
The participants either had a placebo injected or the weight-loss drug. The study lasted 68 weeks. In comparison to the placebo group, which reduced their weight by approximately 2.5% on average, the semaglutide group dropped 15% of their body weight.
Furthermore, over 33% of the semaglutide group lost 20% or more of their total weight.
Even more impressive was that the many in the drug group also experienced improved symptoms of diabetes.
Thus far, semaglutide has shown more impressive results than other weight loss drugs that have been approved by the FDA.
Are there side effects?
While it’s true that the long-term side effects of Wegovy are unknown, the initial indication seems to be that the drug is relatively safe. Weight loss drugs in the past have notoriously been unsafe, whether it’s Fen-Phen (heart damage); ephedra (stroke/heart attack); hydroxycut (liver/kidney damage) and Sibutramine (stroke/heart attack).
The most common side effects of Wegovy are related to gastrointestinal discomfort. But this is most likely when the dosage recommendations are not followed.
In comparison to the still-approved five weight loss drugs that are on the market, Wegovy seems to be the most effective and causes the least side effects. Phentermine is one of the five FDA-approved weight loss drugs and is perhaps the second-most effective after semaglutide.
However, phentermine only has been shown to cause a 7.5% reduction in weight loss, on average. Plus, the drug can only be taken for a short time, after which, patients are most likely to regain the lost weight.
For those struggling with obesity and type 2 diabetes, Wegovy does in fact seem like it has deservedly earned a reputation as a game-changing drug. Unfortunately, the drug may be a victim of its own success. With demand for it far outstripping supply, a pharmacy may not be able to fill prescriptions for it, for some months to come.