In June of last year, the FDA approved Wego’s brand-name injectable drug called semaglutide for chronic weight management. It wasn’t until this summer that the drug became a household name after countless headlines about Hollywood celebrities and Upper East Side moms using it to shed pounds. As Elon Musk tweeted about being on Wego and Andy Cohen considered going on Ozempic (another semaglutide type 2 diabetes drug) on his radio show, the celebrity weight loss sensation became a household name. According to Google Trends, searches for semaglutide have skyrocketed in recent months.
Attention-grabbing headlines aside, this drug has been a beacon of hope for those struggling to maintain a healthy weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 42 percent of U.S. adults are currently considered obese, while nearly three-quarters are overweight. For those prescribed either Ozempic (off-label) or Wegos, the journey has not been easy. The high demands have led to shortages in the US and around the world, making it difficult for both weight loss patients and type 2 diabetes patients to obtain their medications. Here, we explore how the popular drug works, the common side effects that come with it, and how some doctors dispense the miracle drug directly to patients with compounded formulations.
What is Semaglutide?
“The main active ingredient in Ozempic and Wego is semaglutide,” explains New York endocrinologist Judith Korner, MD, who is director of the Center for Metabolic and Weight Control at Columbia University. “It belongs to a family of drugs known as GLP-1 analogs, which are designed to regulate hunger.” Dr. Korner says that patients who participated in the clinical trial lost up to 15 percent of their weight, which is an impressive result compared to other weight loss drugs.
How he does semaglutide Work?
According to Dr. Korner, the drug works by mimicking a hormone our bodies make when it senses food in the gut. “This helps the pancreas make insulin when glucose levels are high.” GLP-1 receptor agonists were originally developed to treat type 2 diabetes,” he explains.
“The main way semaglutide works is in the stomach, in the intestines,” says Dr. Chioma Okafor-Mbah, Certified Obesity Specialist. “It slows down intestinal transit or motility. Basically, you feel fuller for longer, so you don’t have cravings between meals. You’re also fuller for longer because food moves through your system much more slowly. Another way it works is on the appetite center in the brain. It sends a message to your brain that you’re not hungry.”
How effective it is semaglutide?
Dr. Korner says that in a 68-week study of nearly 2,000 participants with a BMI of 27 or more, the semaglutide group lost an average of 15 percent, compared to just 2.4 percent in the placebo group. Both groups involved in clinical trials included diet and exercise in their treatment.
What is compound semaglutide?
The brand name of semaglutide is Ozempic and Wego’s, but some practitioners now offer compounded semaglutide that is dispensed in their own office. This can significantly reduce the cost of drugs, with some doctors charging $400 versus the over $1,000 monthly cost of a brand-name drug. “When we write a prescription, you can have the pharmacy mix up a formula based on what the doctor prescribed, and then they’ll give it to you specifically,” explains Dr. Chioma. “You want to make sure that if you’re getting compounded drugs, especially drugs that are supposed to be sterile, that they’re coming from a pharmacy that’s regulated by the FDA and that they’re meeting all the standards for safety and the products that they’re making. they are sterile.”
Are the side effects really that bad?
It’s important to remember that every drug has side effects, says Dr. Chioma, who runs a weight management program at LC Medical Spa in New York. “The most common side effects of semaglutide or any drugs in the same GLP-1 category are nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and upset stomach.” Some people may also experience vomiting, belching or gas – so many gastrointestinal side effects, but everyone reports different experiences. Some may have one or two side effects for a few days, some may not experience them at all. It really varies, but for many patients it’s an easy trade-off for the movement they’re able to see on the scale.”
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