In the ongoing battle against excess weight, Semaglutide, available under the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy, has emerged as a promising tool, capturing the attention of both weight-conscious individuals and those seeking effective diabetes management. However, as the demand for this medication surges, concerns within the medical and healthcare communities have intensified, accompanied by a global shortage.
Semaglutide, a receptor agonist, mimics the effects of the naturally occurring hormone GLP-1, which regulates insulin, urine production, stomach emptying, and appetite. Ozempic, a product of Novo Nordisk, is a vital medication for managing blood glucose levels in diabetics. Although weight loss is an acknowledged side effect, Novo Nordisk does not promote it as a weight loss drug. Despite this, healthcare providers globally have been prescribing it ‘off label’ for weight management.
Ozempic vs. Metformin
Metformin, a widely prescribed diabetes medication, belongs to the biguanides class. While it plays a crucial role in controlling blood sugar, Ozempic becomes a viable option when metformin is intolerable or contraindicated. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia endorses Ozempic as an alternative under such circumstances.
Wegovy: A Higher Dosage
Wegovy, essentially the same as Ozempic, presents a higher semaglutide dosage at 2.4mg, compared to the 0.25mg and 0.5mg dosages in Ozempic. It is explicitly indicated for weight loss in adults with a BMI over 30, or in the upper 5% of age for children, emphasizing the importance of a low-energy diet and exercise.
Global Shortage and Regulatory Measures
Despite the growing popularity, Semaglutide is a regulated medicine, not available over the counter. Compounding concerns, the TGA confirmed a limitation on semaglutide supplies in Australia until the end of 2024, prompting caution in prescribing Ozempic to new patients unless compelling clinical reasons exist or suitable alternatives are unavailable.
Concerns and Risks
Healthcare professionals emphasize the importance of discussing weight and diabetes management options with qualified professionals due to potential side effects, including nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. The increased prevalence of counterfeit drugs in the market, coupled with instances of misuse, underscores the need for caution.
Sustained Use for Clinical Benefit
Contrary to portrayals in the media and celebrity endorsements, Semaglutide requires sustained use alongside a healthy diet and regular exercise to maintain weight loss. Associate Professor Priya Sumithran, an expert in endocrinology, stresses that the primary goal of these medications is to improve overall health, emphasizing the need for clinical trials to demonstrate health benefits beyond mere weight reduction.