Proponents say it’s a “miracle” diet drug – it can make users physically repulsed by food. But what is the truth about Ozempic?
Ozempic is the controversial drug hailed by the media as Hollywood’s “worst-kept secret” for drastic weight loss, and its seemingly rapid effects have set the internet on fire.
“We’re definitely talking about celebrities doing it,” says Samantha Glasser, a Los Angeles-based art dealer who’s been taking Ozempic since April.
“I completely changed my lifestyle. I didn’t know I could lose about 50 pounds,” she said.
But the drug is also being prescribed to treat things like diabetes, and there are fears that demand could make it harder for doctors to get the drug to patients who need it.
Elon Musk says his slender appearance is due to the injectable — “down 30 pounds,” he tweeted in November.
An Ozempic rumor mill has swirled around Kim Kardashian following her drastic weight change ahead of the MET Gala this year, though she hasn’t confirmed using it.
Only available in the UK for type 2 diabetes patients with a prescription, the drug was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss last year.
Ozempic’s main controversy stems from its immediate impact – mild to severe nausea when thinking about food.
“The biggest complaint I get is patients going to their favorite restaurant and saying ‘I ate two bites of a steak and I can’t eat it, I feel sick,'” says Dr. Daniel Ghiyam, whose clinic in Simi Valley, California is inundated with requests for Ozempic and WeGovy – a similar injectable.
There are also other potential side effects – pancreatitis, gallstones and potentially increased risk of thyroid cancer.
‘Reset your master clock’
After initial skepticism, Los Angeles-based nutritionist Kim Shapira is now an Ozempic convert after working with various clients.
“You hear that someone is on purpose taking a drug that will make them sick, but then you realize it’s all relative. How sick are you? It’s mild nausea…and there are drugs to compensate for that” , she explained.
“You’re basically resetting your master clock. And if you can really do the work and understand your emotional needs while you’re at it, I think there will be a lot of benefits.”
Shortages for those who depend on them
Shortages are commonplace and there are fears that drugs like Ozempic may become less readily available to diabetic patients who depend on it for treatment.
Dr Robert Gabbay, who is the scientific and medical director of the American Diabetes Association, told Sky News he had patients who “have to go from pharmacy to pharmacy to be able to find where they can get it”.
“I certainly have patients who have had difficulty accessing medications and have had to miss doses, putting them at risk for weight gain and increased blood sugar,” Dr. Gabbay said.
Expected popularity in the “obesity epidemic”
Many say the buzz around Ozempic is expected.
The American food industry is worth around $58 billion and more than a third of its population is obese.
But the cultural dangers of offering people a “quick fix” to lose weight aren’t lost on the professionals who recommend it.
“We are in an obesity epidemic, the average American gained 29 pounds (13.15 kg) during COVID,” Ms. Shapira added.
“Their size could contribute to high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, high blood sugar…it’s going to change things.
“I think doctors have a real responsibility here, to make sure it’s prescribed to the right person at the right time for the right reasons.”