My Doctor Prescribed Ozempic to Help Me Lose Weight. How It’s Going
Joan Lewis tried every diet and weight loss plan to lose weight, but nothing seemed to work. Then her doctor prescribed Ozempic after she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
In 2009, 38-year-old Joan Lewis underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer. From then on, she started gaining weight.
“Even after having kids, my weight has always remained the same. I think going through chemotherapy-induced hyper-rapid menopause at 40, I'm gaining weight and it's impossible to lose it,” Lewis told Healthline.
The treatment changed her body chemistry, she said, and the foods she ate her entire life became less tolerant and affected her weight.
Over the past 12 years, Lewis has tried various diets and weight loss programs including Weight Watchers, Noom, Keto, Anti-Inflammatory Diets, Whole 30, Low Carb and Ideal Protein.
“Weight Watchers was my go-to before I had kids. I had such success. After treatment, I tried everything and I would lose some and gain some. It always seemed like my body didn't want to give in and lose weight ,” Lewis said.
Over the past few years, Lewis' blood sugar levels began to rise and he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in September 2022.
“My cardiologist and primary care physician knew how frustrated I was trying to lose weight,” she says.
After her diagnosis, her doctor prescribed metformin, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes that works by lowering blood sugar. Lewis also met with a nutritionist to develop a low-glycemic diet. However, after 3 months of taking metformin and following her diet, her A1C remained elevated.
“We chose to start on a low dose of Ozempic to try and lower my A1C and help start some weight loss,” says Lewis.
Ozempic is an injectable drug that stimulates GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas and other parts of the body, thereby enhancing insulin secretion in response to high blood sugar, explains Dr. Sethu Reddy, president of the American Association of Clinical Medicine in Endocrinology.
“Ozempic also lowers levels of glucagon, an insulin-resistant hormone. In addition to improving blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, these drugs appear to reduce appetite and increase satiety, leading to potential weight loss. Losing weight can also help further improve blood sugar control,” Reddy told Healthline.
Ozempic includes the active compound semaglutide.
Rekha B. Kumar, MD, associate professor of medicine at Cornell University and chief medical officer of Found, said semaglutide aids weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness, delaying gastric emptying and lowering blood sugar.
“Semaglutide, whose name is Wegovy, is an FDA-approved drug for obesity management. So, Ozempic can help diabetics lose weight,” Kumar told Healthline.
Ozempic is only FDA-approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but “when a patient with diabetes is also obese, Ozempic is a good drug option,” Kumar said.
Using Ozempic for weight loss in the absence of type 2 diabetes is considered an “off-label use” of the drug.
In 2022, the FDA reports a shortage of Ozempic. This has caused some controversy because, in some cases, people have taken off-label medications to lose weight.
“Given the recent supply issues, people are prioritizing diabetes management,” Reddy said. “In the future, however, weight loss in non-diabetic patients will increasingly be indicated. Weight loss with GL-1 analogues will also depend on insurance policies and use of these drugs.”
Lewis started taking Ozempic in January 2023 and has lost about 4 pounds per week since then.
“I'm not hungry at all. I get full pretty quickly,” she said. “I used to have a snack when I got home [from work] Or just too hungry for lunch. no longer. “
However, she did experience some side effects, including an upset stomach when she ate fatty or greasy foods like french fries.
For most people, side effects are mild and cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and regurgitation, Reddy said.
“Since the injection is given every seven days, side effects may appear earlier in the week,” he noted. “There have been reports of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) with drugs such as Ozempic, but cause and effect have not been proven. Nonetheless, caution should be exercised when starting GLP-1 analogues if a person has pancreatitis.”
Another potentially serious side effect could be an increased risk of tumor growth in patients with a relatively rare form of thyroid cancer (medullary carcinoma), Kumar said.
“Patients with genetic syndromes such as medullary thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, severe acid reflux, and gallstones are not candidates,” she said.
Lewis said taking the medication forced her to change her diet.
“Sometimes the food tastes very different and it doesn't taste good. I love coffee, but sometimes it's so strong that it makes me a little queasy,” she said.
Medication also keeps her in touch with her food choices.
“I've always been very aware of what food I was eating. I knew that if I ate high-fat food, I would most likely not feel well. A new way of thinking,” she says.
Ozempic is intended only for long-term treatment of diabetes, and while it is used off-label for weight loss, Kumar said it needs to be used consistently long-term to maintain lost weight.
However, Reddy notes that people taking Ozempic should be closely monitored by their physicians”[for] Over time, glycemic control worsens, and eventually, almost all people with type 2 diabetes require insulin therapy,” he said.
Still, he expects Ozempic and other similar drugs to become more widely used.
“These drugs have also been shown to be cardioprotective, and combined with glucose and weight loss properties, they will become increasingly popular in the medical toolbox,” Reddy said.
For now, Lewis plans to continue taking Ozempic for diabetes and weight management.
“If this drug can help lower my A1C and help me lose a few pounds, I'll be more motivated to keep it off and feel better about my health and myself,” she says. “[But], I don't really know how long I'm going to be on this drug. “