From Ozempic to Mounjaro – the diabetes drugs repurposed as weight loss wonders | UK News
A drug aimed at treating diabetes and repurposed as a miracle weight loss pill has taken over TikTok.
People brag about the previously unattainable rate of weight loss from these once-weekly injections, showing off their newly svelte figures.
But what are these drugs and how do they work — and what were they originally designed for?
Mounjaro, Ozempic, Wegovy – what are they?
Let's start with the most famous of the three: Ozempic.
Ozempic blew up last year – If media reports from the US are to be believed, every pound lost in Los Angeles may be thanks to “miracle” injectable drugs.
Started as the preserve of A-listers and the Hollywood elite – rumors abound Kim Kardashian used it to dress Marilyn Monroe – quickly became popular.
Its generic name is semaglutide.This is the same as Wegovy, which has Licensed as a weight loss drug in the UK It will be available later this spring.
Wegovy has a slightly higher dose and is designed for weight loss, while Ozempic is primarily aimed at treating diabetes (more on that later).
Mounjaro — also known by its generic name tirzepatide — is new to the block.
Like Ozempic and Wegovy, it suppresses appetite and increases the time food stays in the stomach, which can lead to weight loss—at least as long as you keep taking it.
Last year, the U.S. Food and Beverage Administration (FDA) fast-tracked approval of the drug to treat obesity after a study showed it could help people lose more than 20 percent of their body weight.
From hypoglycemic drugs to weight loss drugs
Both Ozempic and Mounjaro were originally developed as treatments for Type 2 diabetes.
Injected once a week, these medicines lower your blood sugar by increasing insulin production when your blood sugar is high and help keep your liver from making and releasing too much sugar.
So how do they lead to weight loss?
Both semaglutide and tirzepatide work by mimicking the hormone GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide one) to control hunger and slow digestion.
Tirzepatide – Mounjaro – is a dual-action drug that also mimics the hormone GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide).
In terms of weight loss, tirzepatide and semaglutide reduced body weight by 20% and 15%, respectively, in clinical trials.
They sound like miracle drugs for people trying to lose weight — so what's the problem?
There are some downsides. First, the listed side effects were: nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, severe enough to stop taking about 5% of people in the semaglutide trial and 6-7% of people in the tirzepatide trial.
People in the semaglutide trial also experienced problems with gallstones.
These drugs also carry serious risks, including kidney failure, pancreatitis, and thyroid cancer.
Another shortcoming is called “Ozempic face”. Facial aging is a side effect of sudden weight loss, as people find that the skin on the face sags where it was once plump.
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These drugs are also only effective as long as you keep taking them, and people have reported regaining all the weight they lost when they stopped taking them—either by choice or because there was a shortage of supply.
shortage of diabetics
Perhaps an even more important topic than the side effects for the individual revolves around the effects on those who rely on these treatments, which have now exploded in popularity as a weight loss quick fix.
Although Ozempic and Mounjaro are designed for people with diabetes, in the United States, Ozempic and Mounjaro are prescribed “off-label” for people who want to lose weight.
There were widespread shortages of the drugs last year, with reports that people with diabetes had to drive from pharmacy to pharmacy to find stock because of the high demand.
Are they available in the UK?
Ozempic and Mounjaro are not licensed in the UK.
Wegovy is available on prescription in the UK for people with type 2 diabetes and is Will be available in UK pharmacies in spring.
It is licensed in the UK specifically for weight loss and is available by prescription for those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above – or a BMI of 27 or above with a weight-related medical condition.