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Ozempic for Weight Loss

Medical providers have been prescribing the popular Type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic (semaglutide) off-label for weight loss. It helps people feel full and triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin. Multiple clinical trials show Ozempic can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce weight in patients with type 2 diabetes, but patients have reported gastrointestinal side effects, including nausea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort.

Last Modified: May 30, 2024
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Does Ozempic Work for Weight Loss?

Studies have shown that semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic, works for weight loss both in patients with Type 2 diabetes and in patients with obesity or who are overweight. Semaglutide under the brand name Ozempic is often prescribed for weight loss in patients with excess weight without diabetes even if the FDA hasn’t approved it for this use. In patients with Type 2 diabetes Ozempic has been shown to help a person lose up to approximately 15 pounds depending on the dose of the medication, 0.5mg-2 mg, according to Novo Nordisk’s research published in The Lancet.

When people take Ozempic to treat Type 2 diabetes, weight loss is one of its secondary endpoints and not the primary endpoint that clinical trial researchers looked at in a population without diabetes.

Sue Decotis
“Studies have shown that people can lose up to 15% of their body weight within a year while using Ozempic… After discontinuation of the medication, long-term results can vary based on the type of follow-up care they receive.”
Dr. Sue Decotiis triple board-certified weight loss physician

Novo Nordisk manufactures another semaglutide-containing drug called Wegovy, which is an FDA-approved weight loss injection. The high demand for semaglutide has led to a shortage of the brand name drugs, and Type 2 diabetes patients and weight loss patients have had to use compounded versions of semaglutide.

“Studies have shown that people can lose up to 15% of their body weight within a year while using Ozempic while patients have lost up to 20% and more with Mounjaro,” Dr. Sue Decotiis, triple board-certified weight loss physician, told Drugwatch. “Of course, results always vary… After discontinuation of the medication, long-term results can vary based on the type of follow-up care they receive.”

How Does Ozempic Cause Weight Loss?

Ozempic mimics the GLP-1 hormone that is released into the gastrointestinal tract when a person eats. GLP-1 prompts the body to release more insulin to help reduce blood sugar. It also signals a feeling of fullness and appetite reduction in the brain, which may cause people to eat less.

“These medications aim to mimic the ingestion of food or recreate those same hunger hormones that are produced when we consume food.”
Antoni Adamrovich nurse practitioner and weight loss specialist at TB2.Health

“These are endogenous glucagon-like peptides (GLP-1s), meaning we already have them in our bodies. These medications aim to mimic the ingestion of food or recreate those same hunger hormones that are produced when we consume food. These hormones are like text messages to various parts of our body that can receive them,” said Antoni Adamrovich, NP, weight loss specialist at TB2.Health.

These messages signal to the brain that there is food in the intestine, which leads to feelings of fullness and a decrease in appetite. The pancreas responds by stimulating more insulin production.

Is There a Generic Version of Ozempic for Weight Loss?

Currently, there is no generic version of Ozempic. However, because there is a shortage of the drug, the FDA allows compounding pharmacies to make compounded semaglutide.

“Compounds are great when they’re high quality because then you can customize the dose. I think the good compounders probably have higher quality than the big pharma drugs,” said Decotiis.

Because compounded semaglutide comes in vials that patients have to administer themselves, it’s very important to follow the instructions of your clinician to avoid potential accidental overdose.

How Long Will It Take To Lose Weight on Ozempic?

In Novo Nordisk’s clinical trials, study participants with Type 2 diabetes took about 40 weeks to lose an average of 14 pounds taking the 2 mg dose of Ozempic. People who took 1 mg of Ozempic lost an average of 12.5 pounds.

In another study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers looked at how semaglutide worked for weight loss in overweight or obese patients with and without Type 2 diabetes. On average, people lost 5.9% of their body weight at three months and 10.9% at six months.

“I lost rapidly, then plateaued. I worked with my clinician to adjust the amount, then lost more weight again. But by that point, my behaviors and brain chemistry had changed, and I didn’t have to fight [to lose weight].” ”
Paul Moss weight loss patient

The range of weight loss ranges from 5% to 20% or more in the JAMA study. People with Type 2 diabetes lost less weight than people without Type 2 diabetes. According to experts, Ozempic is more effective for weight loss and blood sugar control when used along with lifestyle changes and exercise.

“I lost rapidly, then plateaued. I worked with my clinician to adjust the amount, then lost more weight again. But by that point, my behaviors and brain chemistry had changed, and I didn’t have to fight. It was just a steady loss until I stopped GLP-1s and moved on to cardiovascular and metabolic repair, which is the state I’m in now,” said Paul Moss, a weight loss patient and co-owner of TB2.Health.

Benefits of Taking Ozempic for Weight Loss

The benefits of taking Ozempic for weight loss in people who are overweight or obese include lowering risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, improving insulin resistance and normalizing blood sugar levels. Some people may have difficulty losing weight with diet and exercise alone, and Ozempic may help these people reach their weight loss goals.

“People entering perimenopause, menopause or men with low testosterone get a little older and can’t maintain the body weight that they used to. Killing themselves at the gym is not going to work if insulin isn’t working,” said Decotiis. “If insulin is really not working, I think these drugs are the answer. But you can’t stop cold turkey. The drugs should be tapered. And you must make sure that you’re getting your body fat measured.”

Studies have shown just a small reduction in weight can reduce the risk for many obesity-related illnesses. For example, weight loss of just 5% to 10% improves cholesterol and blood pressure, according to a study published in Current Obesity Reports. Weight loss of about 10% to 15% may help improve obstructive sleep apnea.

Side Effects Linked To Using Ozempic for Weight Loss

The most common Ozempic side effects include nausea, abdominal discomfort and vomiting. Most of these side effects are mild and may go away after a person’s body adjusts to the medication.

“Gastrointestinal issues are the most common complaint among people just starting semaglutide. Starting with a stepwise dosage and slowly increasing as tolerated is the best way to avoid these side effects,” according to Janie Charlot, a nurse practitioner certified in weight management and functional nutrition. 

However, some patients have complained of rare, but serious side effects such as gastroparesis, also known as stomach paralysis. Gastroparesis is a disorder that slows or stops food from moving from the stomach into the small intestine. Food that sits too long in the stomach can harden and cause blockages.

One patient who took Ozempic and Mounjaro experienced severe gastroparesis and subsequently filed an Ozempic and Mounjaro lawsuit. Jaclyn Bjorklund’s lawyer, Paul Pennock with Morgan & Morgan, said the firm had at least 500 more clients who filed Ozempic lawsuits against Novo Nordisk and other GLP-1 drugmakers.

Lawsuits are being filed by people who developed severe gastroparesis after using Ozempic.
View Lawsuits

Should I Take Ozempic if I Want To Lose Weight?

You may benefit from taking Ozempic for weight loss if you have a body mass index of 30 or greater or a body mass index of 27 with other health problems that may improve with weight loss. Alternatively, experts recommend taking Wegovy instead. Wegovy contains the same active ingredient as Ozempic and is already FDA-approved for weight loss.

You shouldn’t take Ozempic if you:
  • Are pregnant
  • Have a history of pancreatitis
  • Have an increased risk of a rare form of thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) syndrome
  • Have kidney disease

“Those patients who are particularly sensitive to the potential side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, may also not be the best candidates for these medications. A commitment to lifestyle changes is essential for long-term success on these medications,” said Dr. Maria Anton, an endocrinologist and educator at the Pritikin Longevity Center.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.