The use of the injectable drug Ozempic has become so widespread among celebrities and influencers as a quick weight-loss option, that now patients who actually need the drug are stuck waiting for months to get refills.
Earlier in January, influencer and model Remi Bader disclosed that she had been prescribed Ozempic by a doctor to help aid in weight loss. After going off the medication, she said, she gained “double the weight back.”
In conversation with Amanda Hirsch on the “Not Skinny But Not Fat” podcast, Bader said that the drug had just been FDA-approved when her doctor prescribed it to her in 2020 and she was initially nervous about it.
“They said I need this,” Bader recalled. “A few months later, [I] got into the bad bingeing and went off it.”
Ozempic is used by people with Type 2 diabetes to help manage their blood-sugar levels and is approved by the Food and Drug Association solely for that purpose.
At the time, Bader was pre-diabeitc, insulin-resistant, gaining weight and struggling to control her binge-eating. While she admitted Ozempic helped with the binge-eating, Bader stopped taking the drug months after being prescribed because she didn’t want to rely on it.
“I didn’t want to be obsessed with being on [Ozempic] long-term,” Bader said in the podcast. “I was like, I bet the second I got off I’m gonna get starving again. I did, and my binging got so much worse. So then I kind of blamed Ozempic.”
Allison Schneider, the director of media relations for Novo Nordisk, told In The Know that Ozempic was only clinically researched and studied in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Novo Nordisk is the Danish pharmaceutical company that manufactures Ozempic.
“Ozempic is not approved for chronic weight management,” Schneider emphasized. “We trust that health care providers are evaluating a patient’s individual needs and determining which medicine is right for that particular patient.”
Ozempic and another drug, Wegovy, are rapidly becoming mainstream and, as Bader described in the podcast, “trendy” options for weight loss — especially for influencers and celebrities. Unlike Ozempic, Wegovy was approved for weight loss by the FDA in 2021.
“Recently, [Ozempic] is gaining enough popularity on TikTok due to its efficacy in helping with weight reduction in shorter time periods by limiting appetite and cravings,” Wendy Lord, a registered dietician and health and medical reporter, told In The Know.
Lord explained that Ozempic imitates a naturally occurring hormone in the intestines that essentially alerts the body when it’s full.
However, without other lifestyle changes, Ozempic is no more effective than a fad diet. Bader said in her podcast interview that a second doctor she saw after going off of Ozempic seemed to think a lot of her new problems — especially the worsened binge-eating — may have been a result of her taking Ozempic in the first place.
Despite the negativity, it’s only the “success stories” of using Ozempic to lose weight that is causing the drug to be in high demand.
In November 2022, Novo Nordisk reported that in the first nine months of the year, there was a 59% increase in sales of GLP-1 products, which includes Ozempic and Wegovy. The hashtag #ozempic on TikTok currently has 425 million views.
Publications have referred to Ozempic as “Hollywood’s secret” and a “supposed wonder drug.” But now people who need the drug for their Type 2 diabetes and pharmaceutical companies are getting hit with shortages and delays because of the newfound demand.
Jason Peterson, a clinical pharmacist at Remedy One, told In The Know that a reason more people could be gravitating towards Ozempic instead of Wegovy — which, again, is approved for weight loss — is because a lot of health insurance plans do not cover weight-loss drugs.
“When certain drugs aren’t covered, manufacturers have to brand them separately to gain coverage from insurance companies,” Peterson explained. “Ozempic and Wegovy are, in essence, the same drug, but the one treating diabetes may be covered by insurance and the one treating weight loss may not.”
While public figures like Bader — and more recently, Jameela Jamil — speak out against using Ozempic, patients who need the medication to manage diabetes symptoms are suffering. The weight-loss benefits outweighing the medical necessity of the drug further speaks to the influence and chokehold societal beauty standards has on the public.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating habits, contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237. You can also connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741. Visit the NEDA website to learn more about the possible warning signs of eating disorders and disordered eating.
If you or someone you know needs support after experiencing weight-related bias or discrimination, contact the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance at 916- 558-6880 or via an online form. You can also connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741.
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