How Ozempic Became a Celebrity Weight Loss Sensation
By Arvind Sommi
TikTok influencers are sharing how much weight they lost using Ozempic, an expensive type 2 diabetes drug, even if they do not have diabetes. This has led to a surge in demand among those willing to pay the high out-of-pocket cost – leading to a global shortage.
For many people with type 2 diabetes, Ozempic, or semaglutide, is a critical medication that helps them manage their blood glucose and prevent dangerous complications. However, one of the drug’s main side effects, weight loss of around 14.9%, has prompted many people who do not have diabetes to take the drug for its weight loss effects.
In a viral trend called #Ozempic and #OzempicChallenge, users of the social media app TikTok are sharing their impressive weight loss results after using Ozempic. This resulted in more than 250 million views on the platform and endorsements from popular influencers. That led to a surge in use and the FDA designating the medication as “Currently in Shortage.” Novo Nordisk has cited both increased demand and supply chain issues at one of its manufacturing facilities as reasons for this shortage.
How did Ozempic become popular for weight loss?
Touted as a game-changer for the obesity epidemic, Ozempic is similar to a hormone called GLP-1, which regulates appetite, causing people to feel full faster and eat fewer calories. Ozempic’s weight loss properties first made headlines in 2021 when the drug was featured on The Dr. Oz Show in a segment titled, “Could a Diabetes Drug Cure Obesity?”
Novo Nordisk, the drug’s manufacturer, obtained Ozempic's approval for diabetes treatment in December 2017. Subsequently, a higher dosage of Ozempic's active ingredient, semaglutide 2.4mg, was approved for weight loss in June 2021 and branded as Wegovy. On October 1st of this year, Tesla CEO and owner of Twitter Elon Musk tweeted that the secret to his weight loss was “fasting and Wegovy,” fueling greater interest in the drug. However, due to a shortage of Wegovy, healthcare providers began prescribing Ozempic to those seeking weight loss.
Additionally, the cost of Wegovy before insurance is around $1,400 a month, significantly more than Ozempic’s out-of-pocket rate of roughly $900 a month. Since insurance often does not cover prescriptions for weight loss, some have seen Ozempic as a more affordable option that leads to significant weight loss.
What are the consequences for people with diabetes?
The surge in interest in Ozempic has led to a shortage of the drug around the country, forcing many people with diabetes to switch to alternatives.
Unfortunately, substitute drugs for Ozempic (that is, other GLP-1 drugs) may not have the same coverage by insurance companies, and there may be additional restrictions to access the substitutes.
For those who are struggling to obtain Ozempic, speak to your healthcare provider to discuss alternative GLP-1 medications, such as Victoza and Trulicity. Victoza is a once-daily injection, and Trulicity is a once-weekly injection. Additionally, a newer medication called Mounjaro (tirzepatide) has been shown to provide impressive reductions in A1C and weight. Tirzepatide is currently in clinical trials for weight loss and will be submitted for FDA approval for weight loss next year.
However, it may not be any easier to fill a prescription for that product. While Eli Lilly does promise an increased supply of Mounjaro next year, it will almost certainly be the next target for those seeking weight loss medicine.
To learn more about Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro, see our other articles: