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Ozempic for Weight Loss: Everything You Need To Know

Drugs aimed at tackling obesity are entering the private healthcare market

Obesity is on the rise worldwide with over 600 million adults reportedly living with the chronic disease. In England, for instance, the latest government statistics show that 28 per cent of the population are obese, and 36 per cent are overweight. In America, it’s even worse, with just over 42 per cent of the population considered ‘obese.’

Being ‘obese’ means having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. You’re overweight if your BMI falls between 25 and 30.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is the brand name of a prescription drug with the active ingredient of semaglutide. It comes in the form of a pre-filled injection pen for single-patient-use and is normally prescribed by doctors for controlling diabetes.

Ozempic is used to treat type 2 diabetes by helping to control blood sugar levels. During recent trials, the drug was also shown to help with weight loss.

One such trial was carried out in 2021 and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It showed that of nearly 1000 adults classified as ‘clinically obese’, there was a reduced body weight of 14.9 per cent after 68 weeks. This compared to those who took a placebo losing just 2.4 per cent of body weight over the same time scale.

How does Semaglutide work?

Semaglutide works by suppressing the appetite. It does this by mimicking the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). This is released in the body after an individual eats, making us feel full. As a result, we don’t want to eat as much, and our calorie intake falls.

Also known under the brand name of Ozempic, Semaglutide comes as an injection used once a week and will only work if the individual also eats healthily and works out. To work effectively, the pens must be kept in the fridge and stored at 2 – 8°C – and without any direct light. 

Semaglutide brand names

You’ll find Semalglutide also marketed as Ozempic, Rybelsus (the tablet form of the injection) and Wegovy.

Currently, the drug is prescribed for weight loss in many countries to those with a BMI of over 30, but this is off-label. However, a recommendation by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK, back in February this year, will probably see the drug clinically prescribed for obesity very soon. In the UK, this will likely be available under the brand name Wegovy.

Who is not suitable for Ozempic?

Ozempic can’t be taken by pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding. It is also counter-advised for individuals with type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis. Those who are allergic to any of the ingredients should also avoid it. Symptoms may include a rash, itchiness, swelling or difficulty breathing.

What are the side effects of Ozempic?

Like most medicines, there is a list of possible side effects. These include nausea, vomiting, indigestion, acid reflux and heartburn, diarrhoea, inflammation of the stomach (gastritis) and stomach pain, tiredness, dizziness and loss of appetite along with weight loss. The last two side effects are mentioned since the the drug is primarily prescribed for diabetes.

Ozempic vs Saxenda: what’s the difference?

Saxenda is another appetite-suppressing self-injected drug containing the active substance Liraglutide. The main difference between Ozempic and Saxenda is that Ozempic is currently prescribed as a diabetes-controlling medication, whereas Saxenda is licensed in the UK for weight loss treatment. Secondly, Saxenda is a daily injection, and Ozempic is a once-weekly injection.

Ozempic vs Wegovy: what’s the difference?

Both Wegovy and Ozempic are two brands issued by the same parent company Novo Nordisk. The key difference between Ozempic and Wegovy has to do with the amount of semaglutide available per injection pen. Wegovy is available in slightly higher doses. It also has a higher maximum maintenance dose i.e. 2.4mg weekly, compared with Ozempic’s 2mg weekly.

Ozempic and foods to avoid

Ozempic can be taken at any time of the day and without food. There aren’t any particular foods that should be avoided in terms of chemicals clashing, but it makes sense not to indulge in fried food, high sugar foods and junk food when using a weight loss drug. That’s because they can raise your blood sugar levels and prove difficult to digest.

How to buy the Ozempic Pen in the UK

Ozempic is available in the UK from private clinics and pharmacies. It can be delivered directly to patients at home when purchased off-label in the form of Semaglutide in 0.25, 0.5 and 1mg pre-filled injection pens. A UK-registered doctor must first approve you after filling out a confidential medical questionnaire.

In some countries, Ozempic, Saxenda and Wegovy-like weight loss injection pens are sold over the counter in pharmacies. However, readers are strongly encouraged to seek a consultation with your GP before starting any weight loss medication, as results and suitability will differ from person to person depending on your blood results and medical history.

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