What it's like to take hit drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, from severe side effects to losing 50 pounds (2023)

During the two months that Carey Yazeed was taking Ozempic, the drug worked as expected. Yazeed has type 2 diabetes and the weekly injections lowered his blood sugar levels. But it also came with side effects that she found unbearable, such as vomiting, fatigue, headaches, and stomach cramps.

Five weeks after taking the medication, Yazeed said she could not move off the bathroom floor.

"I was throwing up so bad I didn't have the energy to get up and basically lay down," she said. "I couldn't even raise my head to throw up in the bathroom. It was so bad.

What it's like to take hit drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, from severe side effects to losing 50 pounds (1)

The severe effects of Yazeed aren't common, but the experiences of people taking Ozempic and its sister drug Wegovy can vary widely -- from significant weight loss and minimal discomfort at one end of the spectrum to extreme effects.in the other.

NBC News spoke to 10 people about their experiences taking these blockbuster drugs, both forms of semaglutide. They are designed to mimic a hormone that signals the brain when a person is full and encourage the release of insulin, a hormone that keeps blood sugar from getting too high. Drugs, in turn, can lower blood sugar levels and suppress your appetite.

They've grown in popularity over the past year, partly due to social media attention andBillionaires like Elon MuskAdvertising the effects of weight loss drugs.

Prescriptions for Ozempic tripled from 2021 to 2022, according to data from discount prescription drug retailer SingleCare, which has more than 5 million members. Last year, high demand and global supply bottlenecks led toshortage of medicines. Die FDA hat aweitovy Mangelin March 2022, followed by aOzempian deficiencyIm August.

Several people interviewed said that the benefits of the drugs outweighed the side effects.

“It feels easier to move. My clothes feel a lot better and more comfortable,” said Stacey Bollinger, Account Directorin Maryland, who reported losing 52 pounds since Wegovy started. "Something as simple as bending down to tie your shoe is much easier."

Some people said they felt good with the medication. But Yazeed and several others described side effects that forced them to stop taking the drugs or wonder if they could continue for long.

Obesity drug experts who prescribe Ozempic and Wegovy said the drugs can transform patients' lives and health. The effects of weight loss may allow patients to engage in activities they were previously unable to do, such as walking. B. chasing grandchildren or finding clothes that fit in mainstream stores. Semaglutide can also treat health issues related to obesity and diabetes, such as: B. an increased risk of heart attacks or strokes.

"By treating obesity, you are effectively treating over 200 other obesity- or weight-related diseases," said Dr. Ania Jastreboff, associate professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. Jastreboff is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Novo Nordisk, which makes Ozempic and Wegovy.

Reports of dramatic weight loss

The Food and Drug Administration approved Ozempic for people with type 2 diabetes in 2017, then related Wegovy -- the same drug that increases dosage -- in 2021 for weight loss in adults who are obese or overweight and have at least one problem weight. health condition, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol. Ozempic is not approved for weight loss, but doctors sometimes prescribe it off-label for this purpose.

Most people who took Ozempic or Wegovy said it reduced hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods. Bollinger and Randi Lee Harper, a Seattle-area software developer, each said they lost more than 50 pounds.

Harper tookOzempic off-label for weight loss from May to November (she took a hiatus when she moved to Washington state but plans to start again). She said she still enjoyed her favorite foods — like truffled macaroni and cheese and Sour Patch Kids candy — but her portions were smaller.

"You don't realize how nutrition-centric your life is when you're overweight until you go on a diet where you just don't think too much about it, like Ozempic," Harper said.

Most of the time, she added, she responded well to the medication, although she would sometimes belch if she ate too much — a fairly common side effect.

As for Bollinger, she said that in addition to her weight loss, her average blood sugar levels have dropped to a point where she's no longer prediabetic.

Ato studyof more than 1,000 people with type 2 diabetes found that semaglutide was more effective than insulin at lowering blood sugar. Participants did not see results from other antidiabetic medications they continued to take during the study. In anotherto studyOf nearly 2,000 overweight or obese adults without diabetes, people taking semaglutide lost an average of 34 pounds in less than 16 weeks, compared with 6 pounds for those taking placebo.

C. Nicole Swiner, a primary care physician in Durham, North Carolina, said she started taking Wegovy in 2021 after seeing how much it helped her patients. She has since lost 30 pounds, she said.

"Because I'm not starving, I can actually stop and make a wiser decision [instead of] saying, 'Oh my God, I'm starving. Let me get everything that's in the office kitchen, which is usually trash," Swinger said.

In Wegovy, she added, she eats less overall and has swapped out sugary treats like cookies or muffins for healthier alternatives like yogurt or fruit.

For Yazeed, weight loss was not why she came to Ozempic, nor was it a goal. But with the drug, she said, she had to force herself to eat and often couldn't swallow anything but a protein shake in the morning. On a good day, she can do with some chicken broth, too.

She lost 10 pounds in two months and went from a size 12 to a size 8 or 10.

Patients who stop taking their medication usually regain weight.

As with many drugs, semaglutide wears off when people stop taking it, some people saygain weight again. Experts said they are considering Ozempic and Wegovy as lifelong drugs.

"Data from our clinical trials of Wegovy showed that patients do not unexpectedly gain weight when they stop taking the drug," Novo Nordisk told NBC News in a statement.

"This supports the belief that obesity is a chronic disease that requires long-term treatment, similar to high blood pressure or high cholesterol, for which most patients receive long-term therapy," the company added.

Ebony Wiggins, who has type 2 diabetes, said she gained about 15 pounds of the 25 pounds she lost last year while taking Ozempic.

Artemis Bayandor, who lives in Naperville, Illinois, said she weighs more now than she did when she took Wegovy: A month after stopping the medication, she regained the 30 pounds she had lost on the drug , again, plus 10 more in the next few days, six months.

"I was fine for the first week, and by the second week I had all the cravings back, but worse," Bayandor said.

Side effects keep some people off medication

Courtney Hamilton hasn't spent more than a month taking Ozempic, which her doctor prescribed off-label because Hamilton has type 1 diabetes, not type 2.

Her nausea got so bad she could barely eat, Hamilton said, and the foods she tolerated weren't particularly healthy.

"Ironically, this has led me to stick to starchy, high-carb foods like potatoes because they're so tasteless. I ate a lot of it and a lot of plain toast," she said.

People usually start with a low dose of Ozempic or Wegovy and increase it to reduce side effects. Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, said some serious effects can be the result of increasing the dose too quickly.

"When the patient says, 'Wow, I'm sick. I can't even go to work, I throw up all day, "probably the dose isn't right for her," Stanford said.

noclinical trials73% of adults taking the highest dose of Wegovy reported gastrointestinal problems. Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation and stomach pain are the most common. some people havereportedmore serious, although rare, side effects such as pancreatitis and kidney failure.

Novo Nordisk said patients who experience nausea as a side effect should contact their doctor for advice on how to manage it.

Jastreboff said he encourages his patients to eat smaller and more frequent meals, not to eat past the point of satiety, and to monitor which foods are making their symptoms worse. Most side effects appear as people increase dosage and go away once they reach the maintenance phase, she added.

Megan Cornelius, who has been taking Ozempic off-label for type 1 diabetes for several years, said she initially experienced nausea and fatigue, but those effects wore off over time.

"As long as I can keep taking it, I probably will," Cornelius said.

What it's like to take hit drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, from severe side effects to losing 50 pounds (4)

For Eric Joiner Jr., a former type 2 diabetic, Ozempic did exactly what it was intended to: improve his kidney function -- an off-label use of the drug. Joiner developed chronic kidney disease as a byproduct of his diabetes.

He hasn't experienced any side effects or weight loss with Ozempic, he said, but he concedes that doesn't apply to everyone.

"At the end of the day, it's a very personal thing," he said. "Your biology is different from mine."

This story originally appearedon NBCNews.com.

This article was originally published inHEUTE.com

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