Ozempic – known generically as semaglutide – is making headlines for its quick-fix weight loss solution.
But with high demand and low supply of the drug, many people are turning to med spas and online clinics for prescriptions.
We asked a weight loss doctor why Ozempic might not be right for everyone, and why your doctor should be involved in the decision.
1. Ozempic isn’t the right medication for everyone.
There’s no denying that Ozempic is a really effective weight loss drug.
“The amount of weight loss people can achieve on semaglutide is higher than what’s been available so far. People may experience about 15% weight loss,” explains Devika Umashanker, MD, the system medical director of Medical Weight Loss at Hartford HealthCare Medical Group.
But it’s also only appropriate for people who are pre-diabetic, diabetic or have other weight-related comorbidities.
“The challenge has become when people are utilizing the medication outside of the criteria of obesity,” explains Dr. Umashanker. “Ozempic is not appropriate for people looking to lose 5 or 10 pounds on medication.”
2. Your medical history plays an important role in whether Ozempic is right for you.
Before you start a medication like Ozempic, your medical history and lab work needs to be taken into account. And who better to do that than your doctor.
“You need someone who can really dissect and work with your medical history before taking Ozempic,” says Dr. Umashanker.
This can include regular and appropriate lab work, and looking at your family history, other medications you’re taking and any contraindications.
If these steps aren’t done thoroughly, you can run the risk of dealing with increased side effects or interactions.
“I want people to know these medications are powerful,” cautions Dr. Umashanker. “If it’s not followed correctly, side effects can be tricky. You want to work with a physician team to assess you comprehensively.”
3. You’re at risk of getting a less effective, or even unsafe, version of semaglutide
When a drug is in short supply, compounded medications often come onto the scene.
The FDA has received adverse event reports after people used compounded semaglutide. Some products sold as ‘semaglutide’ may not contain the same active ingredient as FDA-approved semaglutide products.
Instead, these medications may be salt formulations. Products containing these salts (i.e., semaglutide sodium, semaglutide acetate) haven’t been shown to be effective and safe.
4. Ozempic is a long-term commitment and it’s good to have a doctor to support you.
Once you start taking Ozempic, you’re in it for the long-haul. Because like other weight loss drugs, once you stop taking it, the weight will often come back.
And while you’re on your weight loss journey, it can be really helpful to have a doctor’s support along the way.
“This is a long-term medication,” says Dr. Umashanker. “If you get an online prescription, you’re missing a key step in this process. Whether it’s side effects, you run into issues or have questions, you should be able to talk with the person that prescribed it to you.”
5. Obesity isn’t a quick fix.
“But, the way they are marketing this medication makes it seem like it is,” says Dr. Umashanker. “Obesity is something you will live with for the rest of your life.”
Your doctor can help you with all the other factors that play a role in this chronic disease, like your nutrition, exercise and mental wellbeing.
“At the end of the day, you want to make sure this medication can improve the quality of your health and not look at it as a treatment path that takes you to the number that you want to get to,” Dr. Umashanker says.
“Skip the online prescriptions,” she advises. “Rely on your provider who knows you and understands the comprehensive nature of this medication. Your doctor is the right person to guide and engage with your care.”