Some doctors are warning against using a type 2 diabetes drug for weight loss after some patients said it helped them lose a few pounds.
Approved by the FDA in 2017, the diabetes treatment sold as Ozempic helps lower blood sugar, but many patients prescribed the drug have reported weight loss as a positive side effect, according to Fox 35 Orlando.
People without diabetes became interested in using the drug for weight loss after news of its perceived benefits made the rounds on social media platform TikTok.
“You definitely decrease your appetite, and you feel full pretty much all the time, and you don’t really crave sugar because you don’t get high or low sugar,” said Dr. Richard Lehman, sports orthopedic surgeon, at Fox 35.
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In 2021, the drug was approved by the FDA as Wegovy to help eligible patients with obesity lose weight. Those seeking treatment had to have a BMI over 27 with at least one weight-related condition or people with a BMI over 30.
According to the FDA, the largest clinical trial showed that people taking Wegovy lost an average of almost 13% of their initial body weight.
The FDA’s findings have led people looking for a quick way to shed pounds to find doctors willing to prescribe the drug “off-label,” meaning to be used for a condition other than the one for which it’s intended. been approved.
“It’s as close to magical weight loss as we have right now,” said Lehman, who has prescribed the drug to his athletes to help them shed a few pounds. “These athletes, within 7-10 days, started losing weight. You can’t just eat as much as you want and not exercise. You have to follow the diet.”
Doctors warn that the benefits may be short-lived, especially if the patient has an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise or health education.
“You give them something, and promise them it will work. And sometimes it will work because they believe it will work. But what’s going to happen after that? You can’t take drugs for the rest of your life,” said Jeremy Avner, co-owner of Nuvia Medical Weight Loss Clinic in Lake Mary, Florida.
Avner’s clinic prescribes the drug to some of his patients.
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One patient, who remained anonymous, told Fox 35 that she received an injection once a week and lost 20 pounds in eight weeks. She said she had never tried anything so effective.
“I have to buy new clothes and everyone at work comes up to me and tells me how beautiful I look,” she told the outlet.
Dr. Ben Kaplan, a primary care physician at Orlando Health who treats patients with diabetes and obesity, said the drug is intended to help high-risk patients lose weight. He stressed that it’s not for people outside of this group who are looking to lose weight here and there.
“Patients who take these drugs off label, for misuse, let’s say for recreational purposes essentially, they do so at their own risk,” Kaplan said, calling it a “buyer beware type scenario.”
Other side effects include pancreatitis, gastrointestinal issues, and gallbladder issues, among others.
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“I’m definitely more supportive of patients who want to lose weight to sit down with a dietician, exercise physiologist, do things the right way. And then if they fail that initial therapy, then you can having a discussion about drugs to help with weight loss,” Kaplan said.
The injection, if received once or twice a week, could cost between $500 and $700 per visit, according to Lehman.
Ultimately, the price will vary from clinic to clinic. Insurance might be able to lower the cost for those who qualify for the drug.
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