Some doctors warn against using a drug to treat Type 2 diabetes for weight loss, after some patients say it has helped them lose a few pounds.
The diabetes treatment, sold under the FDA-approved name Ozempic in 2017, helps lower blood sugar, but many patients prescribed the drug 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 appeared on the social media platform TikTok.
Sports Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. “You definitely curb your appetite and almost always feel full and you don’t really want sugar because you’re not raising it or lowering it,” Richard Lehman told Fox 35.
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In 2021, the drug was approved by the FDA under the name Wegovy to help eligible patients struggling with obesity lose weight. Those seeking treatment were required to have a BMI above 27 or persons with a BMI above 30 with at least one weight-related condition.
According to the FDA, the largest clinical trial showed that people who took Wegovy lost an average of about 13% of their baseline body weight.
The FDA’s findings led to people wanting a quick way to drop a few pounds to find doctors willing to prescribe the “off-label” drug, meaning using the drug for a condition other than the one approved.
“This is very close to the magic weight loss we have now,” said Lehman, who prescribes the drug to his athletes to help them lose a few pounds. These athletes started losing weight within 7 to 10 days. You cannot eat and exercise as much as you want. You have to follow the regime.”
Doctors caution that the benefits may be short-lived, especially if the patient has an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, or lack of health education.
“They’re given something and promised it will work. Sometimes it works because they believe it will work. But what happens after that really? You can’t do drugs for the rest of your life.” said Jeremy Avner, co-owner of the Nuvia Medical Weight Loss Clinic in Lake Mary, Florida.
Avner’s clinic prescribes the drug to some of its patients.
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One patient, who has not been named, told Fox 35 that he had a one-week injection and lost 20 pounds in eight weeks. He said he had never tried anything as effective as this.
“I have to buy new clothes and everyone at work comes to me and tells me how great I look,” she said.
D., a primary care physician at Orlando Health who treats patients with diabetes and obesity. Ben Kaplan said the drug is aimed at helping high-risk patients with weight loss. He emphasized here and there that it is not for people outside of that group who want to lose weight.
“Patients who take these drugs for off-label, misuse, say recreational purposes, do so at their own risk,” Kaplan said, describing it as a “receptive attention-type scenario.”
Other side effects include pancreatitis, gastrointestinal problems and gallbladder problems.
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“I’m definitely one of those who advocate for patients who want to lose weight to sit down with a dietitian, an exercise physiologist, and do things the right way. It helps with weight loss,” Kaplan said.
According to Lehman, if the injection is given once or twice a week, it can cost anywhere from $500 to $700 per visit.
After all, the price will vary from clinic to clinic. Insurance can cut the cost for those who qualify for the drug.