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#Ozempic

Authored by Mahesa Miah

Art by Fiona Reilly


We all want to look our best, but to what lengths will we go to achieve our ideal figure?

Ozempic (Semaglutide) is a medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The drug is part of the broader class of medications called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), where its receptors help lower elevated blood sugar levels [1]. Although its intended use is to treat type 2 diabetes, there has been a growing interest in this medication for its side effects, particularly weight loss. The off-label use of Ozempic for cosmetic weight loss has been glorified, adversely impacting the patients who need this medication to manage their type 2 diabetes. Influencers have advertised its “weight loss” effect on social media platforms, such as Tiktok. One post after another, and suddenly, the drug’s availability is scarce. Now, pharmaceutical companies face a shortage of this medication, and patients who require it for its intended purpose–to manage their diabetes–are suddenly without access. 


In a clinical study, subjects were taking 1mg/week of Ozempic, and results included individuals losing approximately 10 pounds over 30 weeks, nearly five percent of their body weight, and a waist shrinkage of 1.6 inches [1]. With these result supporting the glorified “weight loss” effect of Ozempic, it is clear why individuals would want to participate in the #ozempic trend on Tiktok with over 1.3 billion views. Although its side effect of weight-loss has received much exposure, it seems that the other side-effects have been neglected by the media. Aside from weight-loss, individuals taking Ozempic can also experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting, among many other effects. Some of the major side effects that can arise from taking this medication include Hypoglycemia (when used with insulin or sulfonylurea), Acute Kidney Injury, and Acute Gallbladder Disease [2]. Despite these potential side-effects, individuals who are prescribed this medication to manage their type 2 diabetes can expect positive results when they are monitored by a medical professional. However, there are instances where patients aren’t diabetic and are still given Ozempic medication by medical professionals. 


European countries, such as France, estimated that 2,185 patients were given Ozempic medication even if they were not diabetic. According to those values, around one percent of Ozempic prescriptions covered by state health insurance were “misused” [3]. Subsequently, France’s national drug safety agency issued instructions in September 2023 where they urged doctors to only prescribe this medication for patients with type 2 diabetes and a history of stroke or heart disease [3]. Other countries, such as the UK and Australia have had authorities issue warnings to influencers that are promoting Ozempic online [3]. In the United States, certain insurance companies are only covering the medication for individuals who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Though, some insurance companies do not cover the cost at all, even for individuals with diabetes. Without coverage, the cost of Ozempic medication begins at $3,800 [4]. Additionally, there have also been other recommended alternative drugs that can be taken by type 2 diabetics. The other recommended medications fall under the GLP-1 class, such as Trulicity, Victoza, Bydrueon, Rybelsus, Adlyxin, and Byetta. None of these medications can replace Ozempic, despite Trulicity and Byrueon having a similar weekly injections regime to the famed drug [5]. 


Ultimately, the shortage of Ozempic medication has resulted in a need for awareness in terms of healthcare availability and accessibility. In terms of availability, many individuals with type 2 diabetes who need Ozempic medication have been forced to find other alternatives due to its shortage from its increased popularity. In terms of health accessibility, patients with type 2 diabetes who are unable to afford the expensive cost of Ozempic are forced to find other alternatives that may not be as effective, whereas the influencers that receive profit off of their advertisement of Ozempic medication can continue to purchase it. This makes you wonder whether #Ozempic is worth the popularity, especially if it means creating a gap between diabetic  patients and accessible medication.


References


  1. Wojtara, M., Syeda, Y., Mozgała, N., Mazumder, A. (2023). Examining Off-Label Prescribing of Ozempic for Weight-Loss. Quios. Retrieved October 5th, 2023 from https://www.qeios.com/read/T6Y97S 

  2.  Llamas, M. (October 4th, 2023). Ozempic Side Effects. Drugwatch. Retrieved October 5th, 2023 from https://www.drugwatch.com/drugs/ozempic/side-effects/#:~:text=The%20most%20common%20Ozempic%20side,of%20thyroid%20C%2Dcell%20tumors

  3. Duboust, O., Huet, N. (February 3rd, 2023). Ozempic: How a TikTok weight loss trend caused a global diabetes drug shortage - and health concerns. Euronews.next. Retrieved October 5th, 2023 from https://www.euronews.com/next/2023/03/02/ozempic-how-a-tiktok-weight-loss-trend-caused-a-global-diabetes-drug-shortage-and-health-c#:~:text=Regarding%20Ozempic%2C%20the%20US%20National,a%20type%20of%20thyroid%20cancer

  4.  Lavarone, K. (September 1st, 2023). How Much is Ozempic Without Insurance in 2023? Medical News Today. Retrieved October 5th, 2023 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-much-is-ozempic-without-insurance 

  5. Miller, K. (September 6th, 2023).  Is There An Ozempic Shortage In The U.S.? What To Know And Alternatives, According To Pharmacists.  Women’s Health. Retrieved October 5th, 2023 from https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a44961958/ozempic-shortage/ 

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