Weight Loss Wednesday: Low-cost weight loss injection available in LA, for now

On this week’s edition of Weight Loss Wednesday, WWL-TV’s Meg Farris looks into new drug injections that could be a game-changer for shedding pounds.

METAIRIE, La. — People who have never been able to keep weight off easily, say the prescription has been life-changing.

But last month, one of the low-cost versions of the drug was banned in Louisiana.

Many of you contacted your doctors, and Weight Loss Wednesday, asking how could you continue on your affordable prescription.

The story is still unfolding, but here’s the answer for now.

Christopher Cazenave’s weight loss journey is like so many others.

“In college, some people put on the freshman 15 (pounds). I put on the freshman, like 100 (pounds),” laughed Cazenave, 37, a real estate agent in Metairie. “I did the keto diet. I was the ‘Keto Guido,’ and I was doing carnivore. We did a soup diet. I’ve starved myself.”

So is Ashley Daray’s journey.

“It was two hours at the gym starving, what I now know as starving myself. I was always still hungry, lethargic, and it really didn’t come off with ease, and it was never sustainable,” said Ashley Daray, 40.

Both of them had big life changes. Christopher became a newlywed late last year, and now they’re expecting their first baby. Ashley became a first-time mom to 4-year-old Scarlett. That’s when she reached her heaviest point. For both, family became the motivation to seek treatment.

“When she came along, I just did not know how I was going to prioritize me, but, not to make her suffer, and this shot gave me exactly that. It makes me tear up. It really does,” Daray said.

When asked if becoming a husband and dad, is part of why he wanted to get healthy, Cazenave replied, “100%. 100%. I want to be able to run around with my children, and I want to be able to play with them, and I want to be able to be here.”

So, last fall, Ashley and Christopher each turned to Chronos Body Health Wellness in Metairie, where Dr. Mace Scott prescribed one of the weekly injections of semaglutide or tirzepatide. They mimic naturally occurring hormones that act on appetite centers in the brain and gut, making you feel full and reducing hunger.

“I just hit 83 pounds, and for it to not be a year yet, I just, it really, I tell people it really does blow my mind,” Daray said.

Christopher is down around 55 pounds, which is halfway to his goal, and loves that he can still go out to eat.

“And eat normal things, and not be like, ‘OK, you’re cut off now for the rest of your life from pasta.’ That’s not real life, and so this allows me to, to enjoy things in moderation, which I can’t do on my own,” Cazenave said.

“We’re in an area where there are a lot of overweight people, and we’re seeing such amazing results with this medicine. People are losing weight. They are dropping their blood pressure cholesterol,” explained Dr. Mace Scott, an emergency room physician and owner of Chronos Body Health Wellness.

Ozempic and Mounjaro for diabetes, and Wegovy and Mounjaro, off label, for weight loss, are the brands of these two medications. But insurance won’t always pay for them. So the cost of around $1,500 a month, is out of reach for many. So, pharmacies began compounding the prescription for around $200 to $300 a month. 

They added vitamin B12 to cut down on the nausea side effect. But because that formula has a slight variation, added salt, from the FDA approved brands, the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy recently banned it in the state. Doctors were flooded with calls from upset patients.

“We have so many law enforcement officers, and other people who have limited budgets, that just could not normally afford this. It’s helping their lives. It’s making people happier, and healthier. Why Louisiana when there are states like Texas and Florida that are just backing off, and leaving this alone, because it’s helping patients so much,” Dr. Scott said.

For now, there is good news for patients on the less expensive, compounded versions of semaglutide or tirzepatide. Places like Chronos, and the Why Weight Surgical Specialists of Louisiana, Rejuvime Medical, The Aspen Weight Loss and Wellness Clinic and Lakeside Medical Group, are still able to get the lower-cost, compounded medications. 

That’s because they are the same FDA-approved base formula as the brands, without the salt. But that’s only for now, because the brands are on the national shortage list. Then what do patients do afterward?

“I’ve heard from these compounding pharmacies, that even when the medicines come off the shortage list, they’re going to fight back, because they feel like this medicine is so important for people, and they feel like they’ve improved it,” Dr. Scott said.

Some people tell us their overdrinking and craving for alcohol is gone. For Christopher, his craving for sweets is gone.

“The drug is there. We need to find a way to get it to people. It’s a game-changer. It’s a life changer,” said Cazenave.

For Ashley, it’s about her family. Her husband Tony has also lost a lot of weight on the injection.

“Let me tell you, really y’all, it is almost like a miracle. I can’t even believe how it works for people the way it does,” she said.

The doctor says 80 percent of patients lose weight quickly and easily, while for others, it’s more slowly.

But there are a rare few who either don’t lose weight, or can’t handle the nausea side effects.

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