Weight-Loss Drugs
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More people are turning to a diabetes medication to induce weight loss — but experts say it’s not a miracle drug.

Ozempic, a drug used to treat diabetes, keeps gaining attention as celebrities, a tech mogul and TikTok influencers have described taking it to lose weight in short time frames.
The Food and Drug Administration first approved the injectable medication for treating diabetes in 2017; the agency approved a drug with a higher dose of the active ingredient in Ozempic, called semaglutide, to treat obesity in 2021, under the brand name Wegovy. Since then, talk of the drug has popped up across the internet. Elon Musk, when asked about how he looked “fit, ripped and healthy,” tweeted that he was taking Wegovy. Andy Cohen posted about Ozempic’s growing popularity. In September, Variety reported that actors and producers “are quietly singing the drug’s praises” on Signal, an encrypted messaging app. On TikTok, the hashtag #Ozempic has been viewed over 273 million times, with people alternately expressing shock over their supposed medication-induced weight loss and swapping stories about side effects. Thousands of people in Britain will soon be able to access Wegovy as well.
Ozempic and Wegovy are not the only medications gaining popularity for their weight loss effects. In November 2023, the F.D.A. approved Zepbound, a new drug for weight managemnt that contains the same compound as the diabetes medication Mounjaro. And similar drugs are in the pipeline, including pill versions of the medications.
It’s not unusual for doctors to prescribe medications for “off-label” use, or for a different purpose from what the medication is explicitly intended for, said Dr. Disha Narang, an endocrinologist at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. As interest in Ozempic has increased, some doctors believe that more people have sought ways to take the drug for weight loss — either by finding a physician who will prescribe it to them off-label, or by seeking the drug out online. Dr. Narang herself has seen patients “who have somehow gotten their hands on this,” taking the medication off-label, she said. (Dr. Narang previously served on an advisory panel for Novo Nordisk, a common practice for experts in the field.)
She worries that, as the drug becomes increasingly popular, people will associate it with “vanity,” not as a critical medication for diabetes patients.
Here’s what we know about what the medication can, and can’t, do, and who should take it.
Ozempic and Wegovy are both designed to be injected once a week in the stomach, thigh or arm.
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