It can create a physical aversion to food in users, and proponents say it’s a “miracle” weight-loss pill, while critics call it an “eating disorder in injections”.
Ozempic, a controversial drug now touted as Hollywood’s “best-kept secret” for dramatic weight loss, has become an internet sensation for its seemingly quick effects.
“There are definitely people talking about celebrities doing this,” said Samantha Glasser, a Los Angeles-based art dealer who has been taking Ozempic since April.
“I’ve completely changed my lifestyle. I didn’t know I could lose more than 50 pounds,” she said.
But the drug is also prescribed to treat conditions such as diabetes, and there are concerns that demand will make it harder for doctors to obtain it for patients who need it.
Elon Musk credits injections for his slimmer appearance — he tweeted in November that he “lost 30 lbs.”
Ozempic rumors have swirled around Kim Kardashian after her drastic weight change ahead of this year’s MET gala, though she has yet to confirm using it.
The drug, which is only available in the UK for people with type 2 diabetes on prescription, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss last year.
Ozempic’s main controversy stems from its immediate effects — mild to severe nausea at the thought of food.
“The biggest complaint I get is when patients go to their favorite restaurant and say, ‘I ate two bites of steak and I can’t eat it, I feel sick,'” says Dr. Daniel Ghiyam, who runs a clinic in Simi Valley, California. Ozempic and WeGovy (a similar injection) were inundated with requests.
There are other potential side effects — pancreatitis, gallstones, and a possible increased risk of thyroid cancer.
“Reset your master clock”
After initial skepticism, Los Angeles-based nutritionist Kim Shapira is now a convert to Ozempic after working with various clients.
“You hear about people voluntarily taking drugs that make them sick, but then you realize it’s all relative. How sick are you? It’s mild nausea…and there are drugs that counteract that situation,” she explained.
“You’re basically resetting your master clock. If you can actually understand your emotional needs while you’re working, I think there’s a lot of benefit.”
shortage of people who depend on it
Shortages are widespread and there are concerns that drugs like Ozempic are becoming less accessible to the diabetics who depend on it for their treatment.
Dr Robert Gabe, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association, told Sky News his patients “had to run from one pharmacy to another to find the medicine they could buy”.
“I’ve certainly had patients who struggled to get their medications and had to miss doses, which put them at risk of weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels,” Dr. Gabbay said.
‘Obesity epidemic’ poised to end
Many said the discussion surrounding Ozempic was to be expected.
The U.S. diet industry is worth an estimated $58 billion, and more than one-third of the population is obese.
But the cultural danger of offering people a “quick fix” for weight loss doesn’t go away because of the professionals who recommend it.
“We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic, with the average American gaining 29 pounds (13.15 kilograms) during COVID,” Mrs. Shapira added.
“Their size can lead to high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, high blood sugar … it changes everything.
“I think doctors have a real responsibility here to make sure the medicine is being prescribed to the right person at the right time for the right reason.”