Ozempic: The True Cost of Weight-Loss Drugs

Concepito come trattamento per il diabete, il farmaco è diventato popolare come metodo efficace per la perdita di peso. La sua elevata richiesta ha portato a pericolose contraffazioni e a una carenza del medicinale tra i diabetici.

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Molly Malcolm

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Historically, the advice given to people who are overweight or obese has been simple: eat less and move more. However, this hasn’t worked for many people. Now there’s another solution: weight-loss drugs, specifically semaglutide, which is sold under the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy. These injectable prescription medications have exploded in popularity in recent years.

Not for weight loss

In the US, an estimated one in three adults is overweight, with more than two in five considered obese. Millions of people want to lose body fat. This has resulted in a multi-billion-dollar weight-loss industry which has promoted countless miracle diets and life-changing products for decades. 

Influencers 

In recent years, the industry has experienced a boost as celebrities and influencers are promoting Ozempic as an effective way to lose weight. First sold in the US in 2018, Ozempic is approved there to help lower the risk of cardiovascular problems in adults with type 2 diabetes. However, Wegovy is also approved for weight loss, and many doctors also illegally prescribe Ozempic to overweight patients.

How it works

Ozempic helps people lose weight by acting as an appetite suppressant. It mimics a hormone called GLP-1 and sends signals to the brain to reduce hunger and evoke a feeling of fullness. The drug also slows digestion by increasing the time it takes for food to leave the body. 

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Side effects 

The drug has many side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain and constipation. It can also result in what has become known online as ‘Ozempic face’ and ‘Ozempic butt‘: hollowcheeks or saggy skin in these and other parts of the body from losing fat too quickly. 

No drug for diabetics

Over the past five years, the number of Americans taking Ozempic and other semaglutide medications has increased forty-fold. Goldman Sachs analysts predict that by 2031, fifteen million adults in the US will be taking these drugs for weight loss. This does not include those taking them for diabetes; the widespread use of Ozempic has resulted in shortages of the drug, with diabetics, for whom it was created, having trouble obtaining it. Although many countries have banned or restricted the use of Ozempic for weight loss, Reuters reports that people with enough money can still buy and stockpile it.

Counterfeits

The demand for Ozempic has also resulted in dangerous counterfeits of the drug being sold on the American and European markets, resulting in several hospitalisations. In December 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration seized thousands of units of counterfeit Ozempic injections and advised pharmacists and customers to exercise caution when buying the medicine.  

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Questo articolo appartiene al numero april 2024 della rivista Speak Up.

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