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February 22, 2024

Surge in Demand for Weight Loss Drugs Raises Alarm Bells

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Dec 30, 2023

A recent surge in demand for newer diabetes medications like Ozempic and Wegovy for off-label use as weight loss drugs has health experts concerned. These injectable drugs, while effective for weight loss, come with potentially serious side effects and risks.

What’s Behind the Surge in Demand?

Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, has shown remarkable efficacy as a weight loss treatment in clinical trials. In one study, participants lost an average of nearly 15% of their body weight over 68 weeks on the highest dose of semaglutide. [1]

With over 70% of American adults considered overweight or obese, it’s no wonder these drugs have gained popularity for weight loss. [2] Many struggle with stubborn fat that’s unresponsive to diet and exercise alone. The prospect of an injections that melts fat away seems like an appealing quick fix.

Social media has also fueled interest in semaglutide for weight loss. Dramatic before-and-after photos of apparent “success stories” have inspired others to seek the drugs out themselves. This demand is far outpacing supply, leading to major shortages. [3]

| Projected Growth in Demand for Semaglutide |
|-|
| 2022 | 750,000 prescriptions |
| 2023 | 6 million prescriptions |
| 2026 | 18-20 million prescriptions |

*Projections from Adam Kroetsch, chief commercial officer, Novo Nordisk [3]

Concerning Side Effects and Safety Issues

While semaglutide may lead to substantial weight loss in many people, it does not come without risks. Gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are very common. These side effects lead many people to discontinue treatment.

Of greater concern is the potential for serious complications like diabetic ketoacidosis, kidney dysfunction, vision changes, pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, and cardiovascular effects. [4]

Poison control centers have seen calls related to semaglutide overdoses skyrocket nearly 1500% from 2021 to 2022. [5] Many stem from people self-injecting at higher than recommended doses.

Experts warn these drugs have potential for abuse and dependency. Those desperate for weight loss may continue taking escalating doses despite side effects. [6]

There is also concern that easing restrictions on semaglutide could enable eating disorder behaviors. Those predisposed to conditions like anorexia or bulimia could view the drugs as a new unhealthy method of rapid weight loss. [7]

Warnings Against Off-Label Use for Weight Loss

The growing off-label use for weight loss has physicians speaking out. They warn patients that while tempting, reaching for these drugs to quickly drop pounds or offset holiday indulgences is ill-advised.

Dr. Sriram Madhusoodhanan cautions that semaglutide is not a quick fix or magic bullet. It may help spur initial fat loss but does not treat the underlying drivers like diet, inactivity, stress and sleep that lead to weight gain over time. [8]

He states, “I try to have patients understand that it’s their behaviors that determine their weights. I just try to reinforce there is no substitute for daily exercise and watching your calorie intake.” [8]

Comedian Ed Gamble, who lost a significant amount of weight on semaglutide, warns people not to view it as an excuse to abandon healthy habits:

“It’s madness… it can help people but only combined with eating well and exercise. It’s tempting to think it’s a magic bullet but nothing is.” [9]

Looking Ahead at Regulation and Access

With rising reports of side effects and safety issues, there are questions around regulation of these drugs moving forward. Some experts argue semaglutide should be limited to treat the conditions it’s approved for like diabetes and obesity. [10] Others believe wider access under careful medical supervision is warranted given the immense health burden posed by obesity. [11]

In the meantime, manufacturers are racing to ramp up production to meet demand. Novo Nordisk plans to increase semaglutide manufacturing capacity by 50% in 2023. Competitors like Lilly, Pfizer and Zealand Pharma are also developing their own GLP-1 based weight loss formulations. [12]

Doctors emphasize that those interested in trying these drugs for weight loss seek counsel from obesity medicine specialists. Careful patient selection and close monitoring is vital to balance potential benefits and harms. Lifestyle interventions remain the cornerstone of long-term weight management. [4]

References

  1. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/physician-discusses-surge-in-demand-for-weight-loss-drugs-and-risks-in-using-them
  2. https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/pharma/physician-discusses-surge-demand-weight-loss-drugs-and-risks-using-them
  3. https://businessplus.ie/news/ozempic-far-outstrips-supply/
  4. https://www.wionews.com/entertainment/lifestyle/news-overeating-during-christmas-dont-go-for-quick-fix-weight-loss-jabs-warn-experts-674856
  5. https://www.abc15.com/news/national/poison-centers-see-nearly-1-500-increase-in-calls-related-to-injected-weight-loss-drugs
  6. https://www.spiked-online.com/2023/12/21/whos-afraid-of-wegovy/amp/
  7. https://bnnbreaking.com/breaking-news/health/health-experts-warn-against-misuse-of-weight-loss-injections-ozempic-and-wegovy/
  8. https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/ozempic-wegovy-and-other-weight-loss-drugs-present-holiday-challenges
  9. https://bnnbreaking.com/breaking-news/health/comedian-ed-gamble-speaks-out-against-misuse-of-diabetes-medication-for-weight-loss/
  10. https://euobserver.com/health-post-pandemic/157841
  11. https://www.spiked-online.com/2023/12/21/whos-afraid-of-wegovy/amp/
  12. https://www.businessinsider.com/weight-loss-glp-1-drugs-ozempic-wegovy-mounjaro-effects-future-2023-12
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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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