Drugs and health care are rarely discussed at the Oscars. But host Jimmy Kimmel amused viewers by poking fun at the rumour that the diabetes drug Ozempic is being used by Hollywood celebrities as a prescription for weight loss. In his introductory speech, Kimmel talked about the use of the injectable prescription drug for weight loss, noting, “Everybody looks so good. When I look around this room, I can’t help but think, ‘Is Ozempic right for me?'”
The fact that a joke was made about the drug’s cosmetic appeal outweighing its health benefits indicates that a serious discussion of its supervised use is needed. If only because the consequences are unpleasant. “Although they are not yet available in India, GLP receptor agonists are excellent for weight loss and subsequently for treating diabetes and related problems. However, because the adverse effects are troublesome, they should be used only as directed. “Initially, there is nausea and vomiting and very rarely pancreatic irritation,” explains Anoop Misra, M.D., director of the Fortis CDOC Hospital for Diabetes and Allied Sciences.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF OZEMPIC?
It is the novel drug semaglutide for weight loss. The diabetes drug, sold under trade names such as Ozempic and Wegovy, has shown remarkable results at higher doses. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with type 2 diabetes. “With obesity becoming a growing health problem in India – projections are that 9.5 percent of all men and 13.9 percent of all women will be obese by 2040 – this drug is as close to a magic bullet as any.The drug has been shown to help subjects lose about 15% of their total weight, some as much as 20%, which is not the case with procedures other than bariatric surgery. There are other weight loss medications on the market, but none are as effective. The drug can help people lose weight, especially if they have a family history of obesity and related diseases. “It should be given to those for whom diet does not have much effect or who can not exercise because of weight-related joint pain,” Dr. Misra says.
“In normal type 2 diabetics, this drug becomes effective when their weight drives up blood glucose. The result is long-term blood sugar control. “It’s more successful than any other drug in recent memory,” says Ambrish Mithal, M.D., director and head of endocrinology and diabetes at Max Healthcare.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS THAT WE NEED TO BE AWARE OF?
“It should not be the first-line therapy for fat for all. Also, when it becomes accessible in India – probably in a few months – it will most likely be costly. It could cost between Rs 8000 and Rs 9000 per month. “It also causes gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea in the first few weeks,” adds Dr. Misra. He believes the drug should be given to three groups of people. “First, there are people who are heavy and have dysfunction because of their weight, such as diabetes or fatty liver disease.
Secondly, those who are fat but cannot lose weight in the conventional way. In fact, it can be used earlier for people in whose family there is weight gain and maintenance. Smaller portions provide a better feeling of satiety, and this is exactly how the drug works. Finally, despite taking medication, this drug is intended for those who are overweight and have uncontrolled diabetes,” he explains.
“In India, we have seen older cousins of Olympic have bad effects, so caution is advised,” Dr. Mithal adds. This truth is drowned out by all the hype about weight loss”
WHY CAN’T IT BE USED AS JUST A WEIGHT LOSS DRUG?
“You will regain some of the weight when you stop taking the drug. Unlike bariatric surgery, there is some weight gain after completion of surgery regardless of the type of weight loss. An extended study found that semaglutide has the same effect. “The weight gain is not the same as it was at the beginning of treatment, but it still comes back,” Dr. Misra adds. That’s why Dr. Mithal is concerned about how far we can take it as a simple alternative to what matters most – lifestyle change. “The little evidence we have suggests that the weight is coming back. Losing weight is useless if we do not maintain our optimal body weight. That depends on the other pillars: Diet, Sleep and Exercise. Also, people with diabetes tend to lose slightly less weight than people without diabetes. So please consult an endocrinologist before taking this medication and stick to a medically supervised programme,” he adds.