Weight gain and the inability to keep weight off are issues that, unfortunately, plague millions of Americans. There are many reasons a person may not be able to lose weight or keep weight off that they’ve lost. As a result, many medications have been developed to assist with weight loss. Today, we will focus on Semaglutide-based weight loss medications, what they are, and how they work. Keep reading if you’d like to learn more about these medications and how they may help you improve your health.
What is Semaglutide?
Semaglutide is the generic name for several different brands of medications that belong to a family known as GLP-1 inhibitors. Some are FDA approved for weight loss management in patients. Others are FDA approved for controlling blood sugar levels and other symptoms in patients with type 2 diabetes but can be used off-label as a weight loss treatment.
Recent studies have found that they are highly effective in treating type two diabetes and managing weight loss compared to previous generations of medications and other weight loss methods. These medications are now being used as part of some medical weight loss programs to improve overall weight loss over time or to help patients who struggle to shed extra pounds.
How does Semaglutide work for weight loss?
As a GLP-1 receptor agonist, Semaglutide works with hormone receptors in the body to change how much of certain substances it releases. Semaglutide helps improve insulin release, decrease glucagon release, slow gastric emptying, and reduces appetite1. Excess glucagon, in combination with a high BMI, is one of the reasons why some patients cannot keep weight off.
In other words, Semaglutide works to improve the relationship between the brain and the gut. It improves metabolic health and lowers appetite, reducing caloric intake while improving calorie burn, two key mechanisms that help patients lose weight. According to the study, once patients stopped taking the recommended dosage of Semaglutide, they began to regain their weight2.
In research studies, patients who took Semaglutide lost nearly five times as much weight as those taking a placebo3. This study took place over 68 weeks, during which patients lost a minimum of 5% of their total body weight and as high as 20%+, leading to drastic changes in cardiovascular and metabolic health. The medication was taken in combination with other weight loss measures, including diet, exercise, and changes in lifestyle habits and environment. Semaglutide is meant to assist in weight loss, not to be the sole source of it.
How effective is it in helping you lose weight?
Certain variations of Semaglutide are extremely effective at helping patients lose weight. In one particular study, patients were shown to lose an average of 16% of their body weight with Semaglutide combined with a low-calorie diet and exercise compared to 5.7% of patients receiving the placebo4.
This showed a marked increase in the ability of the body to burn lean fat and to reduce BMI over the test period compared to those who were not taking the drug. It was also shown that taking Semaglutide as part of a weight loss plan improved metabolic health over the trial period, meaning that the body could burn calories faster and more effectively than before the medication5.
Types of Semaglutide weight loss medications
Multiple Semaglutide medications are used today, but only two are regularly used for weight loss. Semaglutide medications used today for medical weight loss include Wegovy and Ozempic.
We will discuss both medications in detail, including usage, treatment length, and potential side effects.
Wegovy is a once-weekly injectable medication that has been FDA approved to help treat excessive weight in patients who are overweight or obese or have a history of weight-related illnesses and diseases.
Wegovy, like other weight loss medications, is meant to be part of a weight loss program that includes diet, exercise, and other weight loss treatments. Wegovy can help those who have tried other weight loss treatments and had little to no success, making it an effective obesity treatment.
The medication is an injectable pen administered once weekly in a dosage of 2.4 mg. Patients with a history of pancreatitis or thyroid issues or who might be at risk for these issues should not take Wegovy without first talking to their doctor.
The most common side effects of Wegovy may include:
- Stomach (abdomen) pain
- Tiredness (fatigue)
- Upset stomach
- Feeling bloated
- Stomach flu
For weight loss treatment, patients may start at a lower dose, work upwards to the maximum dosage of 2.4 mg over 16 weeks, and continue taking the medication until it stops showing beneficial effects. When the medication stops showing beneficial effects, it is advised to speak with your doctor and see if other options are available.
Ozempic is a medication that is FDA approved for treating type 2 diabetes patients to help control blood sugar, insulin levels, and digestion. Ozempic comes as a single-use injectable medication in three dosages: .5 mg, 1mg, and 2mg. It is taken once weekly to help manage weight gain and other symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes, particularly when other treatments failed.
The most common side effects include:
- Stomach (abdominal) pain
Ozempic may be prescribed off-label for help with weight loss, but patients should consult with their doctor first before taking the medication. While on a treatment plan, patients may gradually increase the dosage over time and continue taking the medication until the medication stops working.
As with other weight loss medications, Ozempic is meant to be used as part of a diet and exercise routine to reach maximum weight loss effectiveness.
What is the difference between Wegovy and Ozempic?
Both medications are name-brand versions of the drug Semaglutide. The same company also manufactures them.
However, there are two key differences in the medication.
- Firstly, each one is administered at different dosages. This also means that the two medications cannot be used interchangeably without first consulting a doctor.
- Second, only Wegovy has been approved as a weight loss medication, while Ozempic is approved to treat type 2 diabetes; it may be used off-label as a weight loss medication.
In terms of effect, both medications have been shown to have similar effectiveness at their respective comparable dosages when used on patients in a trial setting. However, data is still incomplete on whether the difference in dosages for each drug may affect the amount of weight lost by patients. Both drugs should be combined with diet and exercise to achieve maximum results.
Is there a Wegovy shortage?
Yes, there is currently a supply shortage for Wegovy, which may affect the availability of the medication for patients taking the drug as a way to lose weight. It is possible for patients to be switched to the alternative drug Ozempic.
Before switching to Ozempic for weight loss, patients will need to undergo an assessment by a qualified treatment physician to determine the potential for any medication contraindications, serious complications, or side effects. If you are prescribed Wegovy as part of a weight loss treatment program and have trouble getting your medication, please consult with your medical service provider about whether or not changing to Ozempic is right for you before stopping use or attempting to switch medications.
Semaglutide can help you lose weight
The type 2 diabetes medication Semaglutide and its brand name counterparts have shown to be incredibly effective at helping patients with and without diabetes to manage their weight more effectively. This is due to how the medication interacts with the brain, hormone receptors throughout the body, gut, and metabolic system. By improving the way the body performs and reducing appetite, it is possible to improve weight loss.
Wegovy and Ozempic should be taken as part of a full weight loss plan that includes a low-calorie diet, strenuous exercise, and lifestyle changes to see results. Ask your doctor about any potential side effects, and do not stop taking the medication without first consulting your doctor, as this could result in adverse reactions and weight gain. Patients should not take Wegovy and Ozempic with type 1 diabetes in patients with a history of pancreatic disease, kidney and liver disease, or allergies to any ingredients.
Semaglutide represents a new wave in weight loss treatments that can help even those who have struggled to lose weight using other means to finally see measurable success. Ask your doctor today if Semaglutide may be the right option for you to help with your weight-related issues and to help you on the path to becoming the healthiest version of yourself.
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Wegovy™ (Semaglutide) medications will help you on your journey toward your desired body no matter which Medical Weight Loss program you choose to implement. It’s the only effective and FDA-approved medication for long-term weight loss management.
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