The latest “Hollywood weight-loss drug” has generated interest for its pound-shedding potential, but doctors caution that its benefits should be measured against other factors.
Approved by the FDA in 2017 for type 2 diabetes treatment, Semaglutide (sold under the trade name Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss) slows gastric emptying so you stay full longer. Its popularity has actually led to shortage concerns, as some pharmacies are now checking if people have a diabetes diagnosis before filling prescriptions.
According to the drug manufacturer’s promotional materials, Wegovy users see an average total body weight loss of 15% (though results vary greatly, with some users not responding to the drug at all). But that impressive stat comes with several important caveats:
- Semaglutide is currently FDA-approved only to treat diabetes. “We would really discourage the inappropriate off-label use of just doing it to shed a few pounds,” says Karl Nadolsky, DO.
- As an off-label drug, Wegovy isn’t covered under most health plans… and a 4-week prescription retails for $1,500 or more.
- The drug only works as long as you keep using it. “This is not something you go on and then come off of, because as soon as you come off of it, you’re going to regain whatever you lost while using the medication,” says Fatima Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA.
- The weight-loss results are based on short-term clinical trials. Multi-year studies could potentially see weight coming back on, even if the user continues taking the medication.