Dieting by design: Using Ozempic as a diabetic weight loss treatment
Sep 30, 2023, 12:50 PM | Updated: Oct 3, 2023, 9:28 am
(AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)
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SALT LAKE CITY — When Nick retired, he noticed that he’d begun to put on some weight.
“I wasn’t as active,” he explained. “And (the doctor) was concerned because I’m only in my 60s.”
Nick was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He told KSL NewsRadio that over the next several months he was able to lose 20 pounds and start getting his weight under control. But not without consequences.
Nick is taking Ozempic. His doctor recommended it to tackle his diabetes. He’d tried metformin and Jardiance, but Ozempic seemed to be the first treatment that actually worked for him.
“Ozempic is something that I really enjoyed being on for the first little while.”
Ozempic is a medicine typically prescribed to adults with type 2 diabetes to lower blood sugar and aid in weight loss. This year, Ozempic became a click-worthy headline after it was attributed as the new blockbuster weight loss drug, commencing a worldwide shortage.
Nick saw first-hand the results the masses were raving about, but he also saw the downfalls.
The side effects of Ozempic
Not long after Nick began taking Ozempic, he began getting stomach aches.
“That’s pretty common I’ve been told,” he said. “And in the morning when I eat breakfast, I’m nauseated.”
Nausea would become a new norm for him as well. Right now he can stomach about 900 calories a day. However, the weight has dropped, and he said he feels a lot better.
“Ozempic has really helped me with my diabetes and losing weight,” he said. “But my problem is the nausea and the stomach aches.”
“It wakes me up at night to tell you the truth,” he continued. “Some nights I wake up at two in the morning and I’m like, ‘Oh, how do I get rid of this?'”
Is Ozempic a life-long commitment?
“These medications are powerful in changing both the functionality of the gut… and also the brain,” said Dr. Christopher Jones.
Jones is the Medical Director for the Intermountain Healthcare Diabetes Program. He said weight loss medications like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro slow down the gut, making a person feel full faster. This is why they are often prescribed for people with diabetes.
“Because it slows the gut down, that sugar is not absorbed nearly as quickly, the spikes of sugar in the bloodstream are not so high.”
Ozempic is not necessarily a cure for diabetes, Jones clarified, but it can be a helpful springboard. He said people can achieve significant weight loss in just a few months, but it’s not a one-and-done fix. He cited two clinical studies where once the weight was lost and people stopped taking the drug, the weight quickly returned.
“You will need to stay on these medicines for a long period of time to keep that weight off,” he said.
Jones said the best way to use Ozempic is with the foundation of healthy habits. Treatments like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro can accelerate weight loss, but a healthy diet and regular exercise work hand in hand with the medicine to address diabetes.
“If it’s not founded in that, there is a potential for trouble from all of these medications.”
The financial burden
As a medication to target diabetic treatment, medical insurance can alleviate the cost of Ozempic. However, Jones said the popularity of weight loss drugs has put insurance companies in a difficult position.
“Insurance companies are looking at a huge number of people with a very expensive medication,” he explained. “They’re putting a lot of restrictions on these medications. Some companies put more restrictions than others.”
So what about those who do need these drugs for medical reasons? How do they get it and how much is covered? As the interest grows so could the cost, even with medical insurance.
Jones said the cost of Ozempic can range from $900 to $1,300 a month without insurance coverage. That kind of cost can add up after just a few months of use, and some people may need to stay on the drug for the rest of their lives.
An additional concern is the growing amount of non-FDA-approved weight loss treatments flooding the market.
“There are some groups who are getting some compounded semaglutide, the thing that makes Ozempic,” he said. “And they’re finding a way to make it available to people without a typical doctor’s prescription.”
Jones said these Ozempic alternatives can be appealing to people who are looking for treatment, either due to a shortage or to serve their own personal weight loss goals.
“So they go get this and they are incurring that risk of a compounded non-FDA approved drug.”
You can be doing everything right — healthy diet, regular exercise — and still be looking for a way to shave off those last few pounds. In those cases, Jones’ said he would not recommend these medications.
“While satisfying for you and helping you to be who you want to be physically (weight loss drugs) are not likely going to be increasing your health,” he said. “Continuing to focus on good health and being healthy is the most appropriate. Let’s continue with your diet and exercise and recognize and rejoice in the health that you have.”
Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio.