Stars — they’re just like us. But sometimes, we really shouldn’t be like them. Hollywood elites are making headlines for using weight-loss and diabetes drugs like Ozempic as an off-label shortcut for weight loss.
The problem is, it’s not safe for off-label use. Or, for that matter, effective for casual weight loss.
Hartford HealthCare bariatric specialist Joseph St. Pierre, DO, explains why.
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What’s this drug again?
The generic name is semaglutide, a drug that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and eating.
As an anti-obesity treatment, semaglutide is prescribed as Wegovy. It’s also a key ingredient in the diabetes drug Ozempic.
Ozempic, in particular, has gained buzz as a weight loss “biohack” among celebrities like Elon Musk.
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So what’s the problem with taking drugs like Ozempic for casual weight loss?
These medications aren’t safe for everyone. The FDA has only approved them for people who meet strict health criteria — like a diagnosis of diabetes or obesity, or for those who are overweight with another weight-related condition like high blood pressure.
And they’re certainly not for casual or cosmetic use. If you’re taking a weight loss medication, you and your doctor had better be in it for the long haul.
“We are treating obesity as a chronic disease,” says Dr. St. Pierre. “Think about blood pressure medication: You go on medication, and you typically stay on medication.”
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But hypothetically, would Ozempic work for casual weight loss?
In a word: No.
In reaction to the celebrity craze around the drug, Bravo host Andy Cohen tweeted, “What happens when they stop taking #Ozempic?????”
What happens indeed.
“When you stop the medication, the weight comes back,” says Dr. St. Pierre. “This is true with any class of weight loss medication.”
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Okay, but what if I’m eligible for weight loss medications? What should I know?
Firstly, “There is nothing quick about these medications,” says Dr. St. Pierre. For instance, semaglutide’s clinical trial in non-diabetes patients averaged 15% weight loss over 68 weeks. Grab your calculators: That’s a year and four months.
Secondly, “My personal experience, not based on evidence, is that the majority of people experience side effects,” says Dr. St. Pierre. That can include nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux and fatigue.
Thirdly, and on a positive note: If you’re eligible and under the care of a doctor, these drugs can be a powerful tool to help you achieve a healthy weight.
Any closing thoughts?
We regularly watch celebrities go to unhealthy lengths for weight loss. It’s not a good look, and it sets a bad example for everyone.
“I’ve seen patients purposely suffer badly through medication side effects without telling their doctor, all for the hope of weight loss. Which is very dangerous,” says Dr. St. Pierre.
If you’re concerned about your weight, or think you might be eligible for weight loss medications, talk to your doctor — and then keep talking to them. They’re your partner for weight loss that’s safe and effective.
While the Hollywood set chases the next fad, you’ll be on a long-term plan that actually works.