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How does Ozempic work for weight loss?

Dr. Mick Singh Health-X

Reviewed by Mick Singh, MD

How does Ozempic work for weight loss?

Ozempic works similarly to the GLP-1 hormone our bodies naturally produce to control our appetites, just like other GLP-1 drugs. But the feature that sets it apart is how long its effects last. Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic, duplicates the effects of GLP-1 and maintains them for around 7 days, whereas natural GLP-1 becomes active quickly after eating but only lasts for about 2 minutes. It also slows down digestion, extending the time it takes for food to leave the body. The results of bariatric surgery are comparable to this process.

Ozempic also keeps blood sugar levels consistent, which is crucial for promoting weight loss because it slows down digestion and keeps food in the stomach for a longer period of time. By reducing hunger, this strategy limits the quantity of sugar released into the bloodstream while also reducing food consumption.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic, also known by the name semaglutide, is a member of the GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist) class of drugs. Its major FDA-approved function is to help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. Additionally, it has FDA approval for lowering the risk of cardiovascular events in those with type 2 diabetes and heart disease, such as heart attacks.

Although weight loss isn’t specifically mentioned in the FDA clearance of Ozempic, its active ingredient, semaglutide, has been thoroughly studied in this area. Semaglutide has a remarkable ability to help people who are overweight or obese lose a large amount of weight when paired with dietary changes and exercise.

In fact, semaglutide is available under the brand name Wegovy, which has FDA approval for the management of persistent weight problems but not for the treatment of diabetes. Though it’s not a common practice, some healthcare professionals choose to give Ozempic off-label to help their patients with their weight loss goals, especially if the patients are also managing diabetes.

How much weight can you lose with Ozempic?

The main substance present in both Ozempic and Wegovy, semaglutide, has been the subject of numerous studies. These studies include a wide range of topics, such as analyses of the dosages used for Ozempic’s anti-diabetes effects and those for Wegovy, an FDA-approved drug created for weight loss objectives.

The results of the weight loss are significant. In one study, those with diabetes who took 1.0 mg of semaglutide (the usual Ozempic dosage), along with following dietary restrictions and consistent exercise, saw an average 7% decrease in body weight over the course of 68 weeks. Comparatively, at the same period, the placebo group’s average body weight decreased by 3.4%.

In a another trial, those who had diabetes lost more than 6% of their overall weight in just 40 weeks. This trial, however, focused on using the highest dosage of Ozempic together with changes in lifestyle and the addition of metformin, a different drug used to treat diabetes.

Although not identical, the dosages of these two medications show similarities. However, there is consistent data from numerous studies showing that people with diabetes who take these medications suffer, on average, less weight reduction compared to those without diabetes who take the same medications. This finding is consistent with broader clinical data that shows persons with diabetes face greater obstacles to weight loss than people without the disease.

What are the side effects of Ozempic?

Even though Ozempic side effects are often observed, most people are capable of controlling them. The most common offenders are gastrointestinal problems such nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and constipation. This is due to the fact that Ozempic directly slows down the digestion process. Less than 4% of participants in the pharmacological studies stopped taking part because of these unpleasant side effects, which can get worse at larger doses.

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What are the drug interactions with Ozempic?

When combined with the majority of medications, ozempic often poses no serious problems; nonetheless, there are a few things to keep in mind. As part of its function, Ozempic lowers blood sugar levels, therefore when coupled with insulin or other drugs that are known to cause hypoglycemia, there is a risk that this reduction will be excessive. As a result, closer monitoring may be required if these drugs are used at the same time.

The ability of Ozempic to slow down gastric emptying, a process that can affect how well the body absorbs oral drugs, is another one of the drug’s main functions. Your healthcare practitioner will likely monitor your situation if you’re taking oral prescription drugs along with Ozempic to make sure that all of your prescriptions are having the appropriate results.

How to get Ozempic for weight loss

Ozempic may be a good alternative if you have type 2 diabetes that is difficult to control only by diet and exercise. In addition, if you fit the following conditions, your doctor might decide to recommend Ozempic for off-label use in helping with weight management:

  • A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
  • Having an overweight BMI of 27 or above in addition to an illness associated to weight, such as diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure.

There are online options as well like the Health-X Weight Loss Program.

What is the cost of Ozempic?

Ozempic has proven to be incredibly successful at managing diabetes and aiding in weight loss. But paying for it can be a significant problem. Individuals should be ready to pay about $1,000 per month for Ozempic when purchasing it without insurance (according to GoodRx). Prices can differ depending on the pharmacy you choose, highlighting the value of doing your research to get the lowest prices.

Fortunately, a large number of insurance policies include Ozempic, which substantially lowers costs. Diabetes patients are more likely to have insurance coverage. However, insurance companies might place limitations on coverage if the medication is used for weight loss off-label.

You are welcome to contact your insurance provider and ask if Ozempic or any other medication containing the active component semaglutide are covered by your plan’s prescription formulary. There are tools available to help you through this procedure, even though your insurance carrier can demand specific steps for coverage authorization. Many healthcare provider offices have personnel assigned expressly to assist patients in understanding insurance coverage.

You can also take a look at the Health-X Weight Loss Program, which offers an insurance concierge service to help you get the coverage you need.

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Novo Nordisk. (2022). Ozempic. Referenced from https://www.novo-pi.com/ozempic.pdf

Davies M, Færch L, Jeppesen OK, Pakseresht A, Pedersen SD, Perreault L, Rosenstock J, Shimomura I, Viljoen A, Wadden TA, Lingvay I; STEP 2 Study Group. Semaglutide 2·4 mg once a week in adults with overweight or obesity, and type 2 diabetes (STEP 2): a randomised, double-blind, double-dummy, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trial. Lancet. 2021 Mar 13;397(10278):971-984. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00213-0. Epub 2021 Mar 2. PMID: 33667417. Referenced from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33667417

Lee S, Lee DY. Glucagon-like peptide-1 and glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Ann Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Mar;22(1):15-26. doi: 10.6065/apem.2017.22.1.15. Epub 2017 Mar 31. PMID: 28443255; PMCID: PMC5401818. Referenced from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5401818

Jensterle M, Rizzo M, Haluzík M, Janež A. Efficacy of GLP-1 RA Approved for Weight Management in Patients With or Without Diabetes: A Narrative Review. Adv Ther. 2022 Jun;39(6):2452-2467. doi: 10.1007/s12325-022-02153-x. Epub 2022 May 3. PMID: 35503498; PMCID: PMC9063254. Referenced from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9063254

Franz MJ. Weight Management: Obesity to Diabetes. Diabetes Spectr. 2017 Aug;30(3):149-153. doi: 10.2337/ds17-0011. PMID: 28848305; PMCID: PMC5556579. Referenced from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5556579

Disclaimer: If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The content within the Health-X Knowledge Base is supported by peer-reviewed research and data sourced from reputable medical societies and governmental entities. It is essential to note, however, that these resources do not replace the need for personalized medical guidance, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified medical professional.

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Prior to his current position at Health-X, Dr. Singh gained invaluable experience as an Attending Physician at Mercy Healthcare for ten years. After that, he embarked on a 7-year journey as Owner and Medical Director of Elysium SurgiSpa, where he gained a deeper understanding of patient care and satisfaction. Additionally, Dr. Singh served with distinction in the United States Air Force, attaining the rank of captain. This experience has imparted in him a sense of discipline, commitment, and dedication to excellence. Dr. Singh’s exceptional pedigree and extensive skill set place him at the vanguard of health delivery models, ensuring that Health-X remains an industry leader. Health-X continues to revolutionize healthcare under his direction, positively impacting innumerable lives with each step forward.


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