What It’s Like To Lose Weight With Ozempic: 3 Women Share Stories

Losing weight with Ozempic has created a huge buzz on social media. Even though it's a treatment for type 2 diabetes, many people are still using the off-label drug to lose weight — a well-known side effect.

But other known common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and constipation, according to pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk, which makes Ozempic.

Demand for the drug, which patients self-inject once a week, is so high it's creating a shortage of people who need the drug for type 2 diabetes and driving a cottage industry for those who want to get a prescription without seeing a doctor in person.

Ozempic is still listed as “currently in short supply” by the FDA.

What's it like to actually take the medication, and what happens when you stop?

NBC News senior investigative consumer reporter Vicky Nguyen interviewed three women who used the drug: Shea Murray, a single mother with type 2 diabetes; Ebony Wiggins, also diabetic; Danielle Baker ) said the doctor gave her the drug to lose weight.

Ozempic is not yet FDA-approved as a weight-loss drug — Novo Nordisk has that designation for another drug, Wegovy, which contains the same drug, semaglutide. But Ozempic can cause weight loss, a result mentioned in the drug's advertisements. Two of the three women interviewed today have actually lost weight.

Semaglutide belongs to a class of drugs that act on the hunger center of the brain. It mimics a hormone that makes you feel full longer, reduces food cravings and curbs your appetite. The drug also slows gastric emptying, so patients are satisfied with smaller servings and feel less hungry overall.

“I didn't even think about (food). …Looking at a bag of Doritos is like looking at a pair of socks,” Murray said.

Shay said if she ate too much, she would feel nauseous. Wiggins and Baker have had similar experiences.

“No matter how little I eat in that sit … I'll be sick, or I'll throw up,” Wiggins said.

“I did eat less. … I just didn't feel great. Even just drinking water upset my stomach and made me feel a little nauseous,” Baker added.

Cravings come back after treatment stops

While not everyone experiences side effects, Baker said she often experiences headaches in addition to daily nausea. The discomfort caused her to stop taking the medication after three months. She didn't expect what would happen next.

“Everything went back to how it was,” recalls Baker. “Like all my crazy cravings for candy, junk food. I feel like I'm overcompensating.”

Baker's weight hasn't dropped. She said she gained 8 pounds while taking Ozempic and another 20 pounds after stopping treatment.

Murray hopes Ozempic will put her type 2 diabetes into remission. But two and a half months later, her insurance coverage changed and she couldn't get the drug. Her relationship with food has also changed.

“The first time I'd say for a week and a half, I was still numb to food cravings. Then all of a sudden, it was like my body woke up and said, ‘Hey, I like bread,'” recalls Murray. “Ozempic is not like a panacea. You still have to work out hard and know your portion control.”

She says she has to curb her appetite and is working extra hard to manage her weight and diabetes.

Wiggins took Ozempic for about six months and lost 25 pounds through diet and exercise. When she stopped taking the drug, her appetite also returned.

rebound effect

In a statement to NBC News, Novo Nordisk said it does not advocate, advise or encourage the off-label use of Ozempic. The company noted that because the drug is not approved for weight loss, no studies were conducted on “weight change after drug discontinuation.”

The women experienced known side effects of ozone, said Dr. Priya Jaisinghani, an endocrinologist at NYU Langone, a clinical assistant professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and a physician certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine.

Any sudden end to a weight loss program can have a rebound effect, she adds. Jaisinghani recommends that people who are taking any medication for weight loss talk to their doctor about including a nutritionist to help with meal planning, staying active and cycling with a fitness specialist, and consulting with a mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Ozempic is getting a lot of attention, but there are other drugs to discuss with your doctor, including Wegovy, Contrave, and Saxenda. Unlike Ozempic, these drugs are both FDA-approved for weight loss.

Studies have shown that patients have to keep taking drugs like Wegovy to work—otherwise, they regain most of their weight. The doctor said that this is not a drug for cosmetic use, but a drug for treating obesity.

There's also the matter of cost: Most insurance plans, including Medicare, don't cover anti-obesity drugs.

Three women interviewed for this story told TODAY that they no longer take Ozempic but have managed to manage their diabetes and weight and have made lifestyle changes to improve their overall health.

Wiggins recently prescribed another type 2 diabetes drug, Mounjaro, because Ozempic was hard to find. She has not yet started the new diabetes medication because she says she has to prepare herself for the injections and possible side effects.

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