Weight loss can be a daunting task, and sometimes we need a little extra help. With over 650 million obese adults in the world as of 2023, many are looking for ways to combat “diabesity.” People are raving about the blockbuster weight loss injection shots to shed their surplus weight. The most popular brands making headlines are Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro.
Many celebrities are turning to the new medicated weight loss injections. The popularity of these medications has caused a shortage. The shortage and out-of-pocket costs have caused some people to stop taking them and regain weight.
This article will dive into everything you need to know about this medicated weight loss method. We will cover how they work, how to take them, their side effects, their cost, insurance coverage, and more. Patients share their experiences while taking the shots.
What Are Weight Loss Shots?
– Ozempic® Tri-Zone is an FDA-approved anti-diabetic medication for treating type 2 diabetes. It is marketed as an antidiabetic medication that helps lower A1C and reduces cardiovascular (CV) risk. These diabetes drugs can control glucose levels, reduce hypertension, lower high cholesterol, help liver health, and decrease weight. Ozempic has splashed across news channels due to its potential to drop extra pounds.
Ozempic is designed to be taken once a week and comes in an injection pen, similar to EpiPen. The pen contains synthetic hormones (semaglutide) that add to the naturally occurring ones created when food goes through the intestine. The hormones in the drug replicate the action of ones in the body to regulate blood sugar, curb hunger, create the feeling of fullness, and slow down the food traveling through the stomach. The needle is injected into your stomach, thigh, or upper arm. A physician normally administers it.
– Wegovy® is FDA-approved and marketed specifically as a weight loss medication. The major difference between them is the amount of semaglutide in each pen. Wegovy shortage has led to the off-label use of Ozempic for losing weight. The unapproved use of Ozempic for non-diabetic patients to shed a few pounds may have serious consequences.
– Mounjaro™, branded under Zepbound with the active ingredient Tirzepatide, is another GLP-1 receptor agonist with GIP that is only approved for diabetic people and not for losing weight yet.
How Ozempic Works
Bodies of overweight and obese people with type-2 diabetes are insulin resistant. Ozempic-like medications contain Semaglutide that replicates a naturally produced hormone in the body called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. Semagultide lowers blood sugar levels after eating, hides feelings of hunger, and signals the brain when a person is full. It also increases the time food is in the digestive system, which keeps a person fuller for longer – similar to gastric sleeve. It may even help with drinking addictions as it lowers the cravings for alcohol. Losing excess fat, in turn, also helps you become more insulin-sensitive.
The artificial hormones in GLP-1-based medications like Ozempic work in four ways:
- When it reaches the pancreas, it does two things. It amplifies insulin production, which lowers blood sugar, and reduces the production of glucagon, which raises blood sugar.
- They block your liver from making glucose.
- It triggers GLP-1 receptors in the brain, particularly in the hypothalamus, to suppress hunger cravings.
- In the stomach, GLP-1 receptors slow gastric emptying. It slows the digestion of your food, which helps with blood sugar spikes and helps you feel fuller for longer, so you don’t eat as much.
One missed dose of the fat loss injection will leave you gaining more weight and craving more food than before. It is used to treat chronic conditions, and the weekly medication must be taken forever for it to work. If a patient discontinues Wegovy or Ozempic, rebound weight gain will occur.
Ozempic has a titration period (the process of adjusting the dosage to your body) of at least eight weeks. It will take at least nine weeks (3 months) to start seeing weight loss results. The injections must be used in conjunction with increased physical activity and reduced calorie intake. Patients should start with low doses and go to higher doses as long as nausea is tolerable. These medications can lead to 5% (20 weeks) to 17% (68 weeks) weight loss at higher doses.
Side Effects of Ozempic
The most common side effects of Wegovy and Ozempic are thyroid tumor (cancer), pancreatitis, intestinal obstruction, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, kidney problems, gastric paralysis, Ozempic face, and changes in vision. Other side effects may include headache, dizziness, fatigue, gassiness, burping, constipation, and muscle or joint pain. There is a high probability that weight will be gained back unless there are significant lifestyle changes, and the issue of stopping the drugs is consequential. The Novo Nordisk (NOVOb.CO) officials said, “Patients discontinuing the use of weight-loss drugs such as Wegovy risk regaining their original body weight in about five years.”
The makers of Wegovy and Ozempic (Novo Nordisk) have faced multiple lawsuits after failing to inform the public that their weight loss injections cause thyroid cancer. Novo Nordisk, is also one of the largest makers of insulin.
Wegovy has a warning of a possible thyroid tumor and even cancer. If you feel a lump or swelling in your neck, hoarseness, trouble swallowing, or shortness of breath, check with your healthcare provider.
A woman who had been taking Ozempic injections for months experienced the worst side effect. Trish Webster tragically died from taking the medication Ozempic to lose weight before her daughter’s wedding. The FDA has received reports of intestinal blockage in people taking Ozempic. Webster took Ozempic, switched to Saxenda due to the side effects, and lost about 35 pounds in five months. While the medications helped her lose weight, they reportedly made her ill. Webster’s husband found her unconscious with liquid coming out of her mouth, and she later died from acute gastrointestinal illness.
Rapid weight reduction had the unintended consequence of giving them “Ozempic face,” which made them look older by causing the facial skin to sag. A loss of facial volume can give the face a skeletal appearance. Patients taking Ozempic had to spend thousands of dollars on facial fillers, Juvederm, Restylane, and Sculptra to combat the “Ozempic face” and recover the volume in their faces. Dermal fillers cost an average of $1,000 per syringe. Multiple syringes are needed in one office visit to see results.
Ozempic face has recently gained attention in the media. Hashtags #Ozempic and #Ozempicface have been viewed over 750 million times on Tiktok.
Cost of Ozempic
The cost of Wegovy and Ozempic can vary depending on your insurance coverage. Without insurance, Wegovy can cost around $1,753 for four 0.75ML auto-injector pens—which is a monthly supply (costing $438 per weekly dose). Ozempic can cost about $1,368 for one 3ML pen injector containing four doses (costing $342 per weekly dose).
Multiple Insurance carriers will not cover Ozempic and other similar medications.
Other, more affordable programs are available that do not require insurance coverage. Henry’s Meds is a telehealth platform. With their program, you can get Ozempic at a low dosage for $198 a month. The recommended dosage of Ozempic will be $298 a month through Henry Meds. Costing patients $3,576 for a year’s supply. However, patients using Henry’s Meds have experienced delays due to short supply.
Read more about The Personal Cost of Obesity
Wegovy Insurance Coverage
– Does Medicare cover Wegovy?
Most Medicare plans (part D) do not cover Wegovy. Look for manufacturers and pharmacy coupons to help offset the cost.
– Does Medicaid cover Wegovy?
Some states, like California, will cover Wegovy with restrictions. As of March 2023, state Medicaid programs that do not currently cover Wegovy include Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Minnesota, Texas, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Kansas, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.
– Does VA (Veteran Affairs) cover Wegovy?
The VA will cover Wegovy. However, you must meet their extensive criteria, including but not limited to verifiable intervention in a comprehensive lifestyle modification that emphasizes diet, exercise, and behavioral adjustments as the three main components of weight management. People must have a BMI of 40 or more to qualify. A BMI of 35 with weight-related conditions is accepted.
– Does Tricare cover Wegovy?
Yes, beneficiaries can cover it after an extensive review under certain circumstances. Although coverage is available, it is a non-preferred product, and Military facilities do not carry this product.
Ozempic Insurance Coverage
Insurance carriers will no longer cover Ozempic for metabolic syndrome if you do not have diabetes. Patients diagnosed with insulin resistance syndrome or syndrome X now have to pay $1,368 for a month’s supply of Ozempic.
– Does Medicare cover Ozempic?
Yes, with a higher co-pay.
– Does Medicaid cover Ozempic?
Yes, it is covered by Medicare Part D plans.
– Does VA (veteran affairs) cover Ozempic?
Yes, with strict limitations, the VA does cover Ozempic for patients with Type 2 diabetes.
– Does Tricare cover Ozempic?
Yes, beneficiaries can cover it after an extensive coverage review under certain circumstances. Although coverage is available, it is a non-preferred product, and Military facilities do not carry this product.
How to Get Weight Loss Injections
Talking to your doctor is the best way to see if you are a good candidate. Your doctor will assess your medical history and current health to decide whether Ozempic or Wegovy is the right treatment. If you qualify, your physician will prescribe the drug, and you can fill it at your local pharmacy.
Candidacy for Wegovy and Ozempic
Candidates must meet these requirements in order to get prescribed by their doctor.
Wegovy eligibility requirements
- BMI of 27 or more and weight-related medical problems
- BMI of 30 or more
- You have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes
- You have high blood pressure
- You have High cholesterol
Ozempic eligibility requirements
- You have Type 2 diabetes
- You have cardiovascular disease (or high risk)
- You have kidney disease
- You have heart failure
Wegovy vs. Ozempic: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?
Wegovy is actually studied and FDA-approved for weight loss, with an average of 8.7% reduction in body weight over 68 weeks, compared to an average of 5.5% with Ozempic, which is not currently approved for weight management. Weight loss can happen as a side-effect of the Ozempic injection, but weight loss is not the labeled purpose of the medication.
How much weight will I lose on Wegovy?
Adults who are battling being overweight or obese can expect an average of 5% to 15% weight loss after 15 months of continued use. Remember that your hunger hormones peak at your maximum weight loss. Let’s say you lose 50 pounds; at that weight, your hunger is at its highest and does not go back to baseline. That is why if you quit taking the shots, you regain the weight and more.
How much weight will I lose on Ozempic?
Adults taking the highest dosage available of 2mg weekly injection lose an average of 14 lbs, while patients taking the 1mg weekly injection lose about 10 lbs.
Ozempic Testimonials and Risks
Watch this video to see actual patients share their experiences while taking Ozempic.
“We’re seeing a lot of patients have this rebound weight gain, and it can really be devastating,” Dr. Karla Robinson, a board-certified family physician.
“The #GLP1 agonists are changing how #obesity can be treated, but they are NOT a cure and must be used in conjunction with other obesity therapies. None of these treatments are reasonably affordable by the greater #US population. There are many hurdles. #ozempic #wagovy #mounjaro” – Dr. Neil Floch
Jillian Michaels, 48, fitness trainer, tells the truth about Ozempic. “The truth of the matter is, Ozempic has some pretty significant side effects. Do your homework on it. The results are not lasting, in huge part,” Michaels adds. “I have talked at least eight family friends off of this drug,” Jillian Michaels tells PEOPLE, noting the side effects they’ve experienced while on the medication. “They’re getting heart palpitations. They’re nauseous, they feel like s—. They feel so awful that it’s motivated them to reverse their type 2 diabetes.”
Novo Nordisk, The billion-dollar pharma based in Denmark, owns Wegovy and Ozempic, along with most of the brands marketed for medicated weight loss. One of their weight loss injections, Saxenda, is labeled with a black-boxed warning (the FDA’s highest level warning). They have faced many lawsuits because they failed to warn the public of the elevated risk of thyroid cancer while taking their injections.
Heavyweight Eli Lilly created a once-weekly injectable prescription medicine, Mounjaro. Recently (Dec 2023) approved by the FDA, Mounjaro (Zepbound) simulates two gut hormones (GLP-1 and GIP) to trigger more weight loss.
A few other weight loss treatments are available if you’re looking for an alternative to Ozempic, such as RYBELSUS®, Trulicity, and Victoza. Regarding FDA approval for these medicines, it is like the Wild West!
Another GLP-1 receptor agonist is Liraglutide, available under the brand name Saxenda and Victoza. This medication isn’t as popular or recommended due to lawsuits against the medication.
Biotech giant Amgen is developing a compound drug that imitates the two gut hormones similar to Lilly’s Mounjaro. Amgen’s drug could be injected once a month rather than once weekly.
Eli Lilly’s next-generation weight-loss drug, known as Retatrutide, adds glucagon hormone to GIP and GLP-1 to increase a person’s energy expenditure above appetite suppression. Eli Lilly also experiments with a daily oral nonpeptide GLP-1 agonist, Orforglipron, in treating type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Interesting Read: FDA Warns of Safety Issues with Compounded Forms of Semaglutide
As weight loss injectables continue to go viral, more negative health risks come to light – like gastroparesis. Their use to slim down by the non-diabetic population comes with high risks.
The supply chain shortage has also become a huge problem with Ozempic and Wegovy users. It’s important to do your research to decide what is the best option for moving forward toward reaching your weight loss goals.
If you are interested in qualifying for bariatric surgery to renew your life, start by filling out the health questionnaire.
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