Diabetes drug Ozempic® and similar medicines are growing in popularity with people searching for an effective appetite suppressant. While Ozempic is often praised for its off-label use as a weight loss aid, people who use it for long periods may risk health problems, including intestinal blockages and stomach paralysis. Wegovy®, a higher-dose version of Ozempic that is FDA-approved to treat obesity, may also cause life-altering effects.
Manufacturer Novo Nordisk does not list stomach paralysis (gastroparesis) intestinal blockages or pancreatic cancer, both potential and deadly gastric side effects of Ozempic and Wegovy, as part of their warnings. As a result, patients may not know they are at risk for developing one of these serious conditions, both which can require hospitalizations and surgery to treat.
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Ozempic was created and approved in 2017 to treat Type 2 diabetes. Soon after Ozempic hit the market, however, clinicians observed that appetite suppression was a side effect and weight loss often occurred. Novo Nordisk then developed Wegovy, a higher-dose version of Ozempic, which was approved by the FDA in June 2021 to treat certain patients suffering with weight gain and obesity. Since then, both drugs have surged in popularity, resulting in national shortages. Together, sales of these drugs reached nearly $10 billion in 2022, with prescriptions continuing to soar.
Wegovy and Ozempic's active ingredient, semaglutide, is a GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide-1, which mimics the GLP-1 satiety hormone in our bodies. This allows the drug to target areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake. According to the FDA, the medication dose must be gradually increased weekly to reduce gastrointestinal side effects. Patients are expected to take? stay on Wegovy long term - potentially for life - as studies show that stopping the drug results in rapid weight gain. The need to continuously take the drug long term also increases the risk of side effects.
The FDA announced in 2023 that complaints made through the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) indicate potential safety concerns for these drugs. This includes the risk of intestinal blockage, which can be serious and life-threatening.
Published studies show patients taking semaglutide drugs such as Wegovy and Ozempic have an increased risk of intestinal obstructions. The risks of intestinal obstruction - a potentially fatal condition that often requires surgery - have been shown to increase by 3.5 to 4.5 times in patients taking GLP-1 receptors. The FDA is now evaluating whether additional warnings are needed because of the intestinal obstruction reports. Intestinal blockage signs and symptoms may include: