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Wegovy (Semaglutide)

Wegovy is a semaglutide drug prescribed for chronic weight management in adults and children aged 12 and older. It also treats heart disease in overweight and obese adults. Though effective, it has the potential to cause serious side effects. There are supply shortages of Wegovy due to its popularity as a weight loss drug.

Last Modified: June 6, 2024
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What Is Wegovy?

Wegovy is a prescription drug from Novo Nordisk that is FDA-approved for weight loss in obese or overweight adults and children aged 12 and up. In March 2024, the FDA also approved Wegovy to reduce the risk of heart disease in overweight and obese adults. Though patients with Type 2 diabetes can take Wegovy, it is not FDA-approved for the indication. Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy, is also available as Ozempic which is FDA-approved for Type 2 diabetes.

The active ingredient semaglutide mimics a gastrointestinal hormone that the body naturally releases when a person eats. Semaglutide also impacts the parts of the brain responsible for signaling satiation and fullness after eating.

“This under-the-skin injection is the first approved drug for chronic weight management in adults with general obesity or overweight since 2014.”
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The FDA has also approved Wegovy to reduce the risk of heart problems. In the SELECT trial, over 17,600 participants were given Wegovy or a placebo for five years. Wegovy users had a 20% lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular issues in comparison to the placebo group.

Those with chronic obesity can take the drug to help them lose and control their weight. Patients who have excess weight — but not obesity — may obtain a Wegovy prescription if they have one or more concurrent medical conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Clinicians usually prescribe the medication along with a personalized diet and exercise plan.

How To Use Wegovy

Wegovy dosages come as individual injections, stored in injection pens, that patients give themselves under the skin on their thighs, stomachs or upper arms. The drug is only available with a prescription, and patients must adhere to instructions from their doctors and pharmacists when using it.

Usually, patients start with smaller doses. As they adjust to the medication, they receive higher doses. This process occurs over 16 weeks or longer. Patients use Wegovy in conjunction with physical activity and healthy eating habits.

Wegovy Dosages

The indicated Wegovy dosage is 2.4 mg, taken once per week. However, patients generally start at a much smaller dose to reduce common gastrointestinal side effects.

Typical Dosing Schedule for Weight Loss
WeeksWeekly Dosage
1-40.25 mg
5-80.5 mg
9-121.0 mg
13-161.7 mg
17+2.4 mg

Once patients reach the 2.4 mg level, they maintain this dosage for the remainder of the time they take the medication. Some patients may stop at 1.7 mg, maintaining that level as their optimal dosage.

However, patients experiencing side effects or who are happy with their progress at lower doses may receive alternate instruction. You should always follow your health care provider’s specific dosing guidance.

How Well Does Wegovy Work for Weight Loss?

Scientific studies suggest that Wegovy is effective for weight loss and lowering the body mass index. Research also indicates that the drug and its active ingredient can reduce blood sugar levels and lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

However, studies with other similar drugs such as Mounjaro (tirzepatide) may show more effectiveness for weight loss reduction than those containing semaglutide.

Key Wegovy Facts on Efficacy
  • Adults lost an average of 35 lbs. on a 2.4 mg dose of Wegovy.
  • A 2.4 mg dose of Wegovy can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 60%.
  • Studies show Wegovy can reduce A1C levels by up to 2-3%.

Blood tests on the A1C hemoglobin indicate a person’s average three-month blood sugar levels. While the FDA didn’t approve Wegovy for treating diabetes, it can have a positive impact on blood sugar. The most positive results occur when patients combine the medication with lifestyle changes.

“Wegovy (semaglutide) is currently FDA approved for weight loss. Obesity is a chronic disease in the US and is linked to so many other chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and many others. Therefore, one of the main advantages of using Wegovy (semaglutide) is that it can assist those in weight loss to alleviate their risks of these chronic conditions,” said Janie Charlot, a nurse practitioner certified in weight management and functional nutrition.

DID YOU KNOW?
You should not take Wegovy with other semaglutide-containing products or with any other GLP-1 receptor agonist.

Common Side Effects of Wegovy

According to Novo Nordisk, the most common side effect is nausea which affects 44% of patients. Other gastrointestinal side effects are also not unusual. Patients may also experience headaches and dizziness.

“Some common side effects of Wegovy (semaglutide) are gastrointestinal (GI) Issues such as diarrhea, constipation, gassiness, nausea, stomach upset, vomiting abdominal pain and bloating,” Charlot told Drugwatch.

Common Wegovy Side Effects
  • Abdominal pain
  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Gas
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Stomach flu
  • Vomiting

Other medications containing semaglutide, such as Ozempic, can cause similar side effects. However, the risk of Wegovy side effects and the potential for increased intensity could be higher because of its higher dosing.

Serious Wegovy Side Effects

Serious side effects of Wegovy include a potential increased risk for thyroid cancer, gallbladder disease, kidney injury and allergic reactions. The drug has a black box warning indicating that research on lab animals found an increased risk of thyroid cancer, though there is uncertainty about whether the same effects occur in humans.

Patients with a family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma and those with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome, type 2, may be at a higher risk of thyroid C-cell tumors. Other serious side effects may occur.

Serious Side Effects
Acute Gallbladder Disease
Taking Wegovy increases the risk of cholelithiasis and cholecystitis, especially in children aged 12 and up.
Acute Kidney Injury
Some people taking semaglutide injections experience acute kidney injuries or a worsening of kidney disease. The risk may be higher for those with renal impairment.
Acute Pancreatitis
During clinical trials, some of those receiving Wegovy experienced acute pancreatitis, and some cases were fatal.
Diabetic Retinopathy Complications
Approximately 4% of patients with Type 2 diabetes reported diabetic retinopathy. Patients with diabetes should monitor their condition closely.
Heart Rate Increase
A heart rate increase of four beats per minute occurred in adults in clinical trials. In clinical trials, some patients experienced heart rate increases of 10-20 bpm.
Hypersensitivity Reaction
Patients who are allergic to semaglutide may experience serious reactions, such as anaphylaxis.
Hypoglycemia
Taking Wegovy lowers blood sugar levels and may result in hypoglycemia in some patients.
Thyroid C-Cell Tumors
Research on laboratory animals suggests that the risk of thyroid cancer could be higher in those receiving semaglutide injections.
Suicidal Behavior and Ideation
Clinical trials on other weight management drugs indicate that suicidal behavior and ideation are a concern.

Patients should let their physicians know immediately if they experience any serious side effects.

Lawsuit Information
Lawsuits are being filed against Novo Nordisk, the makers of Wegovy, by people who developed severe gastroparesis after using semaglutide drugs.
View Lawsuits

How Much Does Wegovy Cost?

Wegovy has a list price of $1,349.02 for a month’s supply of the drug, according to Novo Nordisk. The company says that eligible patients who have health insurance covering Wegovy are more likely to pay an average of $25.

However, the drug’s high cost had led to some insurance providers dropping the drug from their list of covered medications.

Novo Nordisk’s WeGo Together support program may help patients afford their medication. According to the program website, some patients may pay as little as $0 for a 28-day supply of Wegovy for up to 13 fills.

Wegovy Shortage Updates

As of June 2024, the FDA lists semaglutide injections on its drug shortage list. This includes Wegovy and Ozempic. The FDA originally placed the drug on the shortage list in March 2022.

“Each new positive clinical trial, whether for obesity, diabetes or cardiovascular disease, expands the potential clinical use cases and has led to surges in forecasted demand, and shortages are expected to last into [2025],” said Betty Pio, a partner in the Healthcare and Life Sciences Practice of global strategy and management consulting firm Kearney.

In order to meet demand, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have invested billions to increase manufacturing capacity.

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