USA | Feb 22, 2023

Ozempic and Wegovy, the real weight loss wonder drug

/ Our Today

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Candice Stewart & Shemar-Leslie Louisy/ Our Today Writers

Ozempic, the ‘wonder drug’ for weight loss that celebrities in the United States (US) have raved about, can work under the right guidance, says weight loss experts.

The drug, which has only been approved for type-2 diabetics, is the lower dose option for Wegovy, a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved weight loss drug that is quickly rising in popularity due to its appetite-suppressing effects.

Although not yet available in Jamaica, many persons in the US have given the drug high praise.

Elon Musk is known to have raved about Wegovy on Twitter and Kim Kardashian is rumoured to have used the drug to lose weight in an effort to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s dress at the Met Gala in 2022.

In an interview with Our Today, Dr Alfred Dawes, general, laparoscopic, and bariatric (weight loss) surgeon, stated: “Ozempic is a wonder drug and it’s only a matter of time before it gets the necessary approvals from the FDA and other regulatory bodies to market it as a weight loss drug. When this happens, the off-label use will become a thing of the past. Wegovy, on the other hand, has already gone through that process and is actually on the National Health Service (NHS) (in England) and also covered by Medicare (in the United States) as a weight loss drug. So, Ozempic is not far behind. It’s just that Ozempic needs to complete its trials before becoming FDA-approved.”

“The data that is out there is showing that this drug (Ozempic), when it is administered as part of a supervised weight loss/weight-management programme, can have significant results coming close to or approximating bariatric surgery interventions,” Dawes added.

“Taken in isolation, users still get unhealthy calories and do not engage in proper exercises or living a healthy lifestyle, as such they will plateau very quickly,” he said, indicating that weight may be regained and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension will become a major concern. 

Dr Alfred Dawes, general, laparoscopic, and bariatric (weight loss) surgeon

Dawes pointed out that “we know that weight loss is not just a matter of calories in, calories out, eating less, and exercising more. There is a strong hormonal component to it and one of the hormones that is impacted is a target of Ozempic and Wegovy”.

Dawes pointed out that the human body increases hunger hormones in response to a decreased calorie intake which in turn makes it progressively harder to stay on a diet while actively losing weight.

“It is important to understand that feeling hungrier on a diet is not a ‘mind over matter’ issue, the more weight you lose, the more your body is actively trying to get you back to that original weight,” he said.

According to the most recent Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey 2016-2017, one in two Jamaicans are classified as overweight (pre-obese or obese) with Jamaicans aged 35-64 years showing the highest prevalence of pre-obesity and obesity. 

Semaglutide – Ozempic and Wegovy: What are they exactly?

Ozempic is an injectable prescription medication to improve blood sugar in adults with type-2 diabetes and to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke, or death in adults with type-2 diabetes. The manufacturer indicates that it may help people to lose weight. However, it is explicitly stated that Ozempic is not a weight loss drug. 

Wegovy, Ozempic’s sister drug, according to the FDA, is used “for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition (such as high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, or high cholesterol), for use in addition to a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity”.

Wegovy (Photo: Novo Nordisk via AP)

Dawes explained: “The drugs (Ozempic and Wegovy) work to make you feel full for longer. They are designed to decrease your hunger hormones and these actually aid in the regulation of how many calories its users take in per day. But it is not sustainable or safe to use them as the sole contributor to a weight loss plan.”

Ozempic and Wegovy are brand names for semaglutide. The differences between the two are that Wegovy is at a higher dosage and is the only one approved for weight loss. Semaglutide belongs to a class called GLP-1 agonists, which not only regulates blood sugar but, as discovered about a decade ago, also mimics the gut hormones that regulate appetites. Those are the hormones that tell the brain when we are hungry or full.


The issues surrounding Ozempic are:

  • Currently Ozempic is approved only for use by type-2 diabetics and some people use it to lose weight instead.
  • Some users of these medications take them without proper guidance or directions from a proper weight management programme which carry risks.
  • Off-label use (taking the drug for a purpose other than that for which it was licensed) of the diabetic medication for weight loss has contributed to shortages for type-2 diabetics who need it for the prescribed purpose.
  • Side effects of can include acid reflux, nausea, exacerbation of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and fatigue, as well as pancreatitis, gallstones and, in very high doses, it has caused thyroid tumours in rats.
FILNovo Nordisk logo is seen in Bagsvaerd outside of Copenhagen, Denmark. (File Photo: Denmark/Liselotte Sabroe via REUTERS

Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Wegovy and Ozempic have assured investors earlier this month that they will be ramping up production to meet the market needs.

Karsten Munk Knudsen, CFO of Novo Nordisk, said to the Daily Mail: “As you know we have one [production] line in-house, two more up and running full speed and we have one line on track to be online first half of this year and then another line on track to get online second half of this year. So we have a significant step up in Wegovy production capacity.”


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