Can new weight loss drugs live up to the hype?

Social media is creating a frenzy about new weight loss drugs. Influencers have people clamoring for the so-called “weight loss shot.” Can Wegovy and Ozempic live up to the hype? We asked Caroline Davis who started taking Wegovy a year ago.

“I have always struggled with my weight,” said Davis.

She shared photos from when she was her heaviest. “It’s that yo-yo where you lose it and it comes right back and you’re back where you started or even bigger than where you started,” said Davis.

Since then Caroline has lost well over a hundred pounds. The difference this time was the weight loss drug, Wegovy. “It stopped the cravings and made me not eat as much and that definitely helped and the weight just started falling off,” said Davis.

“It’s an impressive drug,” said Dr. Hillary Miller, medical director of the Austin Regional Clinic (ARC) Healthiness Program.

Dr. Miller says semaglutide drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy are game changers and can help patients lose as much as 15% of their body weight. “The studies are good. You can lose 30 pounds in 68 weeks. That’s over a year,” said Dr. Miller. “I think it’s a great tool.”

Semaglutide is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for weight loss in adults with obesity, as well as some people who are overweight and have weight-related health conditions. The prescription drugs work by making patients feel full faster. That means patients are no longer eating everything on their plates.

“Basically, it makes them fuller sooner and they’re just not as hungry,” said Dr. Miller. “Medications can play a really good role in helping people resist some of the urges to overeat.”

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The weight loss drug also keeps patients feeling full longer. So, there is less of a temptation to snack. “Instead of maybe reaching for a snack two hours later, they may be able to go more prolonged times without feeling like they need something to eat,” said Dr. Morgan Stewart, University of Texas at Austin clinical assistant professor. “This medication class really does open up the doors to safer, even more, effective medications for weight loss.”

But the prescription drugs are not perfect. Wegovy requires a weekly injection and, like most drugs, has side effects. “Nausea, diarrhea, and constipation are the major complaints that people have,” said Dr. Miller.

Semaglutide drugs can also be very expensive and are usually not covered by insurance when they are used for weight loss instead of as a treatment for Type 2 Diabetes. “Cost is a big issue,” said Dr. Stewart. “It is not covered by many, many healthcare plans.”

“Patients have paid up to $1,300 a month for this drug,” said Dr. Miller.

Wegovy is not a substitute for regular exercise and healthy eating habits. Without lifestyle changes, studies show that once patients stop taking the drugs they regain much of the lost weight. “They gained about three-fourths of the weight back,” said Dr. Stewart. “It is definitely not a miracle or a replacement for lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.”

“There is no simple thing for losing weight. It’s a multifaceted illness, a chronic disease and so it takes a lot of different approaches,” said Dr. Miller.

Davis is now on the lowest dose of the weight loss shots and is continuing to count calories and steps. “I like to keep it at 10,000 a day,” said Davis.

She’s proud of her before and after photos and knows it’s going to take lifestyle changes to make sure they don’t flip-flop. “It’s not some kind of magic medication to work on its own,” said Davis.

Davis says her advice for using Wegovy is to eat smaller and more frequent meals to avoid nausea. She also says her body couldn’t tolerate the highest dosage of the prescription drug so she scaled back to avoid experiencing the most common side effects.


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