Ozempic - What's the Hype

Sep 19, 2022

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

If you watch any professional sports on television or live, chances are you have seen an Ozempic billboard or advertisement. In Canada, law does not permit advertising to detail a prescription drug's uses so the whole billboard simply says Ozempic. While these ads are short lack details, they do not lack brand power.

Semaglutide, marketed as Ozempic, was developed to treat Type 2 diabetes by working to control blood sugar levels. Ozempic comes in a convenient preloaded, multiuse injection pen. You attach a needle, dial up the dose and give yourself an injection once per week. It belongs to a class of medications called GLP-1 receptor agonists. It mimics the action of the human incretin glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1). Hang on what did I just say....? Incretin is normally produced by the body when we eat, which acts like a messenger system for the body to ramp up its metabolism as start using food as fuel. Simply GLP-1 works to increase insulin secretion. This helps to increase blood sugar disposal and improve glycemic control. Glycemic control is critically important to reduce the risk of negative outcomes from diabetes.

With the way Ozempic works, it is extremely effective at one more task beside lowering blood sugars. It helps you loose weight, and for that reason it is extremely popular. It has become so popular; the supplier cannot meet demand in the United States. Some countries are only allowing it to be used to treat diabetes. Interestingly, Ozempic is not officially indicated for weight loss in Canada. However, if deemed appropriate your physician might consider providing a prescription for off label use. Its being used off label because in diabetic trials, people lost up to 10-15% of their original bodyweight in about 16-18 months of use. This means a 200lb person may be able to lose up to 20 to 30 lbs.

A downside to Ozempic is it is quite expensive. It can be covered by Manitoba Health towards your Pharmacare deductible, but only if you are diabetic. It is covered across the board by some insurance providers. Another downside to Ozempic and especially when using it off label is it is a new drug. Common adverse effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation. Of course, there may also be some injection site irritation. You must start at a low dose and titrate the dose up over time to minimize side effects. Your clinic pharmacist can help you with the injection process, which has make it quick, easy and virtually painless.

As for long-term effects we are not sure if there are any or how significant they might be. Diabetic scientific reviews GLP-1 agonists may some type of adverse effects on the pancreas and gall bladder. Another older GLP-1 agonist warns it cannot be used with those who have a family history thyroid cancer, but this link has not been shown in Ozempic to date. Ozempic has not been studied for long-term use in weight loss. While long term risk appears to be low, we once thought the same thing for other miracle drugs like Vioxx and Avandia, which can no longer be used due to risk from long term use.

Ozempic itself may not be a long-term solution as you may have to stay on the medication to keep the weight off. Although more studies are needed, there is some concern GLP-1 agonists cause you to lose not only fat but lean muscle and bone mass as well. This could be an area of concern. Losing muscle will also mean burning less calories naturally in the future. If you are on any weight-loss program or medication, add in strength training to preserve healthy muscle.

Nothing can replace a healthy diet along with regular exercise. Even if you decide to give Ozempic a try, cutting back carbohydrates and especially processed sugar is still your best option. Adding on exercise five to seven days a week, will also be a significant benefit.

New versions of diabetic medications and weight loss treatments are always being developed. Oral semaglutide Ozempic. called Rybelsus, has recently arrived in Canada as well. Dauphin is home to SciMar's head office, a company currently working with the mission of solving the diabetes epidemic. If you have questions about Ozempic or any other diabetic or weight loss treatment do your research online, talk to others on the treatment, but always consult a health care professional. And please remember to limit the sugar.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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