The growing need for weight loss medication, which ones work and who shouldn’t take them

The Ozempic craze started something that isn’t stopping anytime soon

While the weight loss side effect of Ozempic made it challenging for diabetes patients to get their prescriptions, it also sheds light on the need for more weight loss drugs.

Despite a recent shortage of Ozempic, some doctors say they won’t stop prescribing it for weight loss because of the obesity epidemic.

Ozempic is FDA-approved for type 2 diabetes. The active ingredient, semaglutide, is the same ingredient in Wegovy which is FDA-approved for weight loss.

According to endocrinology PA, Dipal Divecha, it’s the safest and most effective weight loss drug on the market so far.

“Anti-obesity medications have shown to reduce appetite and promote five to 10% weight loss in conjunction with comprehensive lifestyle therapy,” Divecha said. “I recommend FDA approved, anti-obesity agents along with lifestyle modification therapy.”

These are the drugs that she says she prescribes, in this order:

  • Semaglutide (Ozempic & Wegovy)
  • Qsymia (phentermine and topiramate)
  • Liraglutide (Victoza)
  • Saxenda
  • Contrave

The main concern with taking any medication is side effects and weight loss pills may give unpleasant side effects.

“Any rapid, significant weight loss may increase the likelihood of gallstones,” she said. “When any weight loss therapy is discontinued, weight regain is expected.”

In fact, there’s not much data on the long-term use of weight loss medication to know how much rebound weight gain can happen but some studies show that may happen quickly after discontinuing Ozempic.

The Eating Recovery Center (ERC) of Houston provides eating disorder treatment to patients. Jennifer Moore with ERC said weight loss can trigger eating disorders, even in patients with no previous history. Moore said if someone feels desperate to lose weight, they may need counseling instead.

“Anyone who’s desperate and needing that quick fix, it may work in the short term but they’re not working on what’s going on in the long term and that’s where the intervention needs to happen,” Moore said.

However, Divecha said people with a BMI greater than 31 or a BMI of 27 with obesity-related comorbidities (like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes) can see health improvements with weight loss drugs. Of course, she said, these patients lose the most weight with lifestyle changes in combination with the pills.

Pregnant patients, those with depression, some cancers, or uncontrolled high blood pressure should never take weight loss medication.

“There’s no magic bullet, there’s no magic pill, weight loss medications are not for everyone, and the decision to start weight loss mediation should be individualized,” Divecha said.