‘People Who Need These Drugs Can’t Get Them’

'People Who Need These Drugs Can't Get Them'

man preparing Semaglutide Ozempic injection control blood sugar levels


A doctor is warning people to steer clear of a TikTok trend that’s also popular in Hollywood circles which involves off-label use of prescription diabetes drugs for fast weight loss.

Ozempic is an FDA-approved prescription medication — taken by injection in the thigh, stomach or arm — to help lower blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes. It’s the brand name for semaglutide, which stimulates insulin production and also targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite, according to the FDA.

Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic, makes several brand-name drugs containing semaglutide, including Wegovy, which is FDA-approved for weight loss in people with obesity.

Recently, Ozempic and Wegovy have started trending across social media after TikTok users learned a number of celebrities have used the drugs for weight loss, even though they don’t have diabetes or clinical obesity.

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted earlier this month that he used Wegovy for his recent slimdown. Bravo’s Andy Cohen also tweeted about the growing popularity of the drugs for weight loss.

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However, Dr. Caroline Apovian, co-director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, warns that use of the Ozempic and Wegovy strictly for weight loss is causing less availability for “underserved” diabetic patients whose lives are at risk without the drugs.

Ozempic and Wegovy are both listed as “currently on shortage” on the FDA’s website. Novo Nordisk said in a release that the shortage is caused by a recent increase in demand, as well as supply chain issues.

“The Hollywood trend is concerning,” Apovian tells PEOPLE. “We’re not talking about stars who need to lose 10 pounds. We’re talking about people who are dying of obesity, are going to die of obesity.”

“You’re taking away from patients with diabetes,” she continues. “We have lifesaving drugs… and the United States public that really needs these drugs can’t get them.”

Apovian also notes that although “​a third of obese patients will lose 20% of their body weight [on the drug],” using Ozempic or Wegovy for moderate weight loss is only a quick fix. “If you lose weight with a drug and you stop the drug, you’ll gain it back,” she adds.

Another systemic issue, she says, is that the drugs are so expensive — around $1,200 a month for Ozempic — that the people most in need cannot afford them. They are typically not covered by insurance, which means that wealthy people can buy them at the literal expense of others’ health.

The medications can also cause a number of side effects, including headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pancreatitis and kidney failure.

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