For the 2 months Carey Yazeed took Ozempic, the drug labored as supposed. Yazeed has sort 2 diabetes, and the weekly injection lowered her blood sugar ranges. However it additionally introduced uncomfortable side effects she thought-about insufferable, together with vomiting, fatigue, complications and abdomen cramps.
5 weeks into taking the medicine, Yazeed mentioned, she discovered herself unable to maneuver off the toilet flooring.
“I had vomited a lot that I didn’t have the vitality to rise up and I used to be principally mendacity in it,” she mentioned. “I couldn’t even elevate my head to vomit within the commode. It was so unhealthy.”
The extreme results Yazeed confronted aren’t widespread, however individuals’s experiences taking Ozempic and its sister drug, Wegovy, can differ extensively — from substantial weight reduction and minimal discomfort on one finish of the spectrum to excessive results on the opposite.
NBC Information spoke to 10 individuals about their experiences taking these blockbuster medicine, each of that are types of semaglutide. They’re designed to imitate a hormone that indicators to the mind when an individual is full and promotes the discharge of insulin, a hormone that stops blood sugar from getting too excessive. In flip, the drugs can decrease blood sugar ranges and suppress appetites.
They’ve soared in recognition over the past yr, partly from social media consideration and billionaires like Elon Musk touting the medicine’ weight reduction results.
Prescriptions for Ozempic tripled from 2021 to 2022, in accordance with knowledge from the prescription drug low cost firm SingleCare, which has greater than 5 million members. Final yr, excessive demand and international provide constraints gave rise to shortages of the medications. The FDA reported a Wegovy shortage in March 2022, adopted by an Ozempic shortage in August.
A number of individuals interviewed mentioned the advantages they acquired from the medicine outweighed the uncomfortable side effects.
“It simply feels lighter shifting round. My garments match so significantly better and extra comfortably,” mentioned Stacey Bollinger, an account director in Maryland, who reported dropping 52 kilos since beginning Wegovy. “One thing so simple as bending over to tie my shoe is a lot simpler.”
Some individuals mentioned they felt advantageous on the drugs. However Yazeed and a few others described uncomfortable side effects that compelled them to cease taking the medicine or query whether or not they might keep on them long run.
Weight problems medication consultants who prescribe Ozempic and Wegovy mentioned the medicine can remodel sufferers’ lives and well being. The load loss results can allow sufferers to do actions they could not do beforehand, like chase after grandchildren or discover garments that match at mainstream shops. Semaglutide also can tackle well being points linked to weight problems and diabetes, akin to an elevated danger of coronary heart assaults or stroke.
“By treating weight problems, you’re successfully probably treating over 200 different obesity-related or weight-related illnesses,” mentioned Dr. Ania Jastreboff, an affiliate professor of drugs on the Yale College of Drugs. Jastreboff serves on the scientific advisory board of Novo Nordisk, which makes Ozempic and Wegovy.
Accounts of dramatic weight reduction
The Meals and Drug Administration permitted Ozempic for individuals with sort 2 diabetes in 2017, then Wegovy — the identical drug, which matches as much as greater dosage — in 2021 for weight reduction in adults with weight problems or these who’re chubby and have least one weight-related well being situation, akin to hypertension or ldl cholesterol. Ozempic will not be permitted for weight reduction, however docs typically prescribe it off-label for that function.
Most individuals who took Ozempic or Wegovy mentioned it curbed their starvation and decreased cravings for unhealthy meals. Bollinger and Randi Lee Harper, a software program developer within the Seattle space, every reported dropping greater than 50 kilos.
Harper took Ozempic off-label for weight reduction from Might till November (she paused whereas shifting to Washington state however plans to begin once more). She mentioned she nonetheless loved her favourite meals — like truffle mac n’ cheese and Bitter Patch Children sweet — however her parts had been smaller.
“You don’t understand how a lot your life is centered round meals while you’re chubby till you’re on a weight-reduction plan that simply helps you to not give it some thought a lot, like on Ozempic,” Harper mentioned.
For probably the most half, she added, she reacted nicely to the medicine, although typically she burped if she ate an excessive amount of — a reasonably widespread aspect impact.
As for Bollinger, she mentioned that along with her weight reduction, her common blood sugar ranges have dropped to a degree the place she’s not pre-diabetic.
A study of greater than 1,000 individuals with sort 2 diabetes discovered that semaglutide was more practical than insulin at reducing blood sugar. The individuals had not seen outcomes from different antidiabetic medicine, which they continued to take through the trial. In one other study of almost 2,000 chubby or overweight adults with out diabetes, individuals taking semaglutide misplaced a mean of 34 kilos in lower than 16 weeks, in comparison with 6 kilos amongst these receiving a placebo.
Dr. C. Nicole Swiner, a household medication physician in Durham, North Carolina, mentioned she began taking Wegovy in 2021 after seeing how a lot it helped her sufferers. She has misplaced 30 kilos since then, she mentioned.
“As a result of I’m not ravenous, I can truly cease and make a better determination [rather] than, ‘Oh my God, I’m ravenous. Let me seize no matter’s within the workplace kitchen,’ which is normally junk,” Swiner mentioned.
On Wegovy, she added, she eats much less total and has swapped sugary treats like cookies or muffins for more healthy alternate options like yogurt or fruit.
For Yazeed, weight reduction was not the explanation she went on Ozempic, nor was it a purpose. However on the drug, she mentioned, she needed to pressure herself to eat and infrequently couldn’t abdomen something past a protein shake within the morning. On a very good day, she may additionally tolerate some rooster broth.
She misplaced 10 kilos in two months, going from a measurement 12 to an 8 or 10.
Sufferers who cease taking the medicine typically regain weight
Like many medicine, the consequences of semaglutide cease when sufferers go off of it, so some individuals regain weight. Consultants mentioned they think about Ozempic and Wegovy to be lifelong drugs.
“Information from our medical trials for Wegovy confirmed that, not unexpectedly, sufferers expertise weight regain as soon as they cease taking the medicine,” Novo Nordisk informed NBC Information in an announcement.
“This helps the assumption that weight problems is a power illness that requires long-term administration, very like hypertension or excessive ldl cholesterol, for which most sufferers stay on remedy long run,” the corporate added.
Ebony Wiggins, who has sort 2 diabetes, mentioned she has gained again about 15 kilos of the 25 she misplaced final yr whereas taking Ozempic.
Artemis Bayandor, who lives in Naperville, Illinois, mentioned she weighs extra now than when she took Wegovy: Inside one month of stopping the medicine, she gained again the 15 kilos she had misplaced on the drug, she mentioned, plus an additional 10 over the subsequent six months.
“For the primary week I used to be OK, and for the second week I went proper again to the entire cravings, however worse,” Bayandor mentioned.
Unwanted effects put some individuals off the drugs
Courtney Hamilton did not made it greater than a month on Ozempic, which her physician prescribed off-label as a result of Hamilton has sort 1 diabetes, not sort 2.
Her nausea acquired so unhealthy that she might barely eat, Hamilton mentioned, and the meals she might tolerate weren’t significantly wholesome.
“Mockingly, it made me persist with very starchy, carby meals like potatoes as a result of they’re very bland. I ate a whole lot of that and a whole lot of plain toast,” she mentioned.
Individuals sometimes begin with a low dose of Ozempic or Wegovy, then ramp as much as scale back uncomfortable side effects. Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an assistant professor of drugs at Massachusetts Normal Hospital, mentioned some extreme results could also be the results of elevating that dosage too rapidly.
“If the affected person’s saying, ‘Oh gosh, I’m sick. I can’t even go to work, I’m vomiting all day,’ it’s in all probability the dose is simply not an applicable dose for them,” Stanford mentioned.
In clinical trials, 73% of adults taking the very best dose of Wegovy reported gastrointestinal points. Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation and abdomen ache are commonest. Some individuals have reported extra severe, albeit uncommon, uncomfortable side effects like pancreatitis and kidney failure.
Novo Nordisk mentioned sufferers experiencing nausea as a aspect impact ought to contact their well being care supplier for steerage about methods to handle it.
Jastreboff mentioned she encourages her sufferers to devour smaller, extra frequent meals, not eat previous the purpose of fullness, and monitor which meals exacerbate their signs. Most uncomfortable side effects happen as individuals are growing their dosage, then subside as soon as they attain the upkeep section, she added.
Megan Cornelius, who has been taking Ozempic off-label for sort 1 diabetes for a number of years, mentioned she was nauseous and fatigued at first however these results light over time.
“So long as I can proceed to take it, I in all probability will,” Cornelius mentioned.
For Eric Joiner Jr., a former sort 2 diabetic, Ozempic hasn’t completed something past its supposed impact: enhance his kidney operate — an off-label software of the drug. Joiner developed power kidney illness as a byproduct of his diabetes.
He hasn’t skilled uncomfortable side effects or weight reduction from Ozempic, he mentioned, however he acknowledges that is not true for everybody.
“On the finish of the day, it’s a really private factor,” he mentioned. “Your biology is completely different than mine.”