Risks of Taking Ozempic for Weight Loss
Clinically reviewed by Kathleen Stanley, CDCES, RDN, LD, MSEd, BC-ADM, MLDE
Ozempic is the brand name for semaglutide — a prescription drug that helps people with diabetes control their blood sugar. The medication may also promote weight loss.
However, mainly fueled by social media posts, there has been a recent surge in people without diabetes using Ozempic solely for weight loss. That spike has caused a shortage impacting those who need the medication for blood sugar management.
Shana Nicholson, Manager at the Baptist Health Diabetes Management Programs is worried, “As a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, I am concerned about the health of our patients living with diabetes who are unable to receive their prescribed medications, such as Ozempic, due to shortages,”
Why You Should NOT Take Ozempic To Lose Weight
In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ozempic for use by people with type 2 diabetes. It’s a liquid solution given as an under-the-skin injection.
In addition to helping control blood sugar levels, Ozempic lowers glucagon, a hormone that raises sugar levels. As a result, Ozempic may promote weight loss, but it has not been approved for that purpose.
Still, doctors around the U.S. are reporting frequent requests for the drug from people who don’t need it for diabetes management.
That’s the primary reason for not taking Ozempic for weight loss: Increased demand for the drug is creating shortages that adversely affect patients who need it to ensure their bodies can release enough insulin to control their diabetes.
Other issues that this “off-label” use is causing include:
- Taking care providers away from other essential tasks as they struggle to find Ozempic for their patients
- Risk of drug interactions for those taking Ozempic without medical supervision
- Serious side effects, including allergic reactions, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels in the eye), kidney failure and other kidney problems, increased thyroid cancer risk, gallstones, and swelling of the pancreas
- Regaining weight when no longer taking the medication if lifestyle changes haven’t been made
Ozempic may also cause minor side effects like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In addition, doctors caution that the drug hasn’t been studied in broader populations, so there may be other possible side effects that have not yet been documented.
Talk With Your Doctor About Ozempic
Ozempic is only intended and approved for people with type 2 diabetes. You should not take it solely for weight loss. Doing so may prevent patients who require the medication for blood sugar management from getting it. Interrupting their treatment with Ozempic creates serious health risks.
You can do your part to prevent those risks by not taking Ozempic for weight loss and sharing this advice with your friends and family.
If you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor can help you decide if Ozempic is right for you. If you’re experiencing type 2 diabetes symptoms, such as increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, unintended weight loss, frequent infections, and slow-healing wounds and sores, contact your doctor. They can order a simple blood test to determine if you have type 2 diabetes.
There are medications approved for weight loss and weight management. Talk with your doctor if you find it hard to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. They can assess your health and recommend lifestyle changes, medication, and other treatments as appropriate.
“Ozempic is used to manage blood sugar from diabetes,” says Shana, “I urge those with prescriptions for Ozempic for weight loss and not for diabetes management to contact their healthcare provider to be switched to a comparable FDA approved medication for weight loss.”
If you or a loved one has diabetes and looking for additional help, look no further than the Baptist Health team of experts. They can provide education, training, and support with lifestyle changes for pre-diabetes and diabetes self-management.