Floridians embrace Ozempic’s Wegovy weight-loss craze. Is it worth it?

The weight loss craze is on.

Injectable weight-loss drugs like Wegovy, Ozempic, and Mounjaro are the new benchmark for many Floridians showcasing on social media platforms the vast amounts of pounds they’re losing. Promoted by celebrities such as Charles Barkley, Elon Musk and Amy Schumer, these drugs aimed at diabetes and obesity have quickly become game-changers for people who have been struggling to lose weight for years.

With demand high, cost and shortages of these drugs have created a frenzy in Florida: clinics are selling off-brand versions, Latinos are importing them from their home countries, and social media groups are forming to share information about low cost suppliers.

Florida doctors say patients think they can use drugs like Wegovy to lose weight and then stop taking them. It’s not that simple, doctors say. There’s a lot to know about how they work, current off-brand use, and the risks.

“In the fight against obesity, 2023 we now have medicines that work. It’s a big development,” said Dr. Raul Rosenthal, a bariatric surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic Florida. “However, nothing is perfect.”

How these drugs work

Wegovy and Ozempic are made by Novo Nordisk and are different doses of the same drug, semaglutide. It works by slowing down the movement of food through the stomach and curbing appetite, which ultimately has the effect of causing weight loss.

After clinical trials, the Food and Drug Administration approved Ozempic for type 2 diabetes and Wegovy for obesity. Both are now given off-label for weight loss and need to be injected under the skin once a week to work. Rybelsus, also made by Novo Nordisk, is essentially Ozempic in pill form with the same active ingredient, semaglutide

Mounjaro, known generically as tirzepatide, has joined this class of drugs. It’s technically FDA-approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, like Ozempic, and it uses the same appetite-suppressing mechanism, but it also has an ingredient that causes an added weight-loss effect.

Some doctors believe that demand for Mounjaro could soon surpass other weight-loss injectables. Wegovy has been shown to help people lose up to 15% of their body weight. At certain doses, Mounjaro has been shown to induce a 21% loss of body weight, almost as significant a result as that of bariatric surgery.

Rosenthal of the Cleveland Clinic Florida said rapid weight loss will most likely only happen during the initial boot.

“I would say after a period of time, about three to four months, your weight loss will stabilize,” Rosenthal said. “You’ll probably be injecting less frequently, just for maintenance.”

Ozempic boxes
Floridians use Ozempic and Wegovy to lose weight fast. (Photo illustration by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Where to find the drug

To get these injectable weight-loss drugs, a health care professional must write a prescription. You can fill it out at your local pharmacy or through an online pharmacy. However, the demand for these drugs has soared over the past year, to the point where they are in short supply in some areas of the state.

In addition to supply issues, cost is a factor. These drugs are expensive, and because they aren’t approved for weight loss the way most people use them, insurance won’t cover them.

Thus, a secondary market of doctors and nurses has arisen who will prescribe these drugs over the phone. Additionally, Florida weight loss clinics and medspas sell injections created by compound pharmacies. These local pharmacies combine ingredients to create low-cost versions of semiglutide.

Dr. Dawn Sherling, an associate professor of internal medicine at Florida Atlantic University, says Floridians need to be cautious: “There is a lot of variation in what is produced. When there’s a huge demand for this drug quickly, it encourages some labs that aren’t very proficient at it to make it.

On Twitter @Charlotte_Dunne of Fort Lauderdale says she can get generic semiglutide injections for $100 a week from a local botox doctor and recently tried it. She has decided not to continue.

The Tampa Weight Loss Focus Group (Semaglutide/Wegovy) on Facebook has dozens of posts from people selling and buying off-brand versions of these drugs and sharing their experiences.

Just this week Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company that makes Ozempic and Wegovy, filed legal action. The drugmaker has filed several lawsuits against companies selling off-brand versions of their popular drugs, including two in Florida.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said last month it had received reports of adverse events after people took injections of semaglutide sourced from compounding pharmacies.

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Image Source : www.sun-sentinel.com

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