Can you lose weight by taking a drug?

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Many people would like to lose weight, but struggle to do so. That’s why drugs such as Ozempic® and WegovyTM1 (but there are many more like Saxenda®, Xenical and Contrave) have been in the news since they came on the market, resulting in a shortage of Ozempic (This hyperlink will open in a new tab)®(French only).

Are you familiar with these treatments, how they’re used and the side effects? Continue reading to learn more.

Obesity is on the rise in Canada

Between 2015 and 2021, obesity increased by approximately 3% to over 29% among adults. So they’re at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and certain forms of cancers... That’s why the search for solutions is such a key health issue.

(Source: Statistics Canada)

Ozempic or Wegovy?

Some drugs are known for their unexpected benefits and that applies to Ozempic® (semaglutide), marketed to treat Type 2 diabetes in adults.

This drug is administered through self-injection pens. Regular doses tend to curb the appetite.

This appetite-suppressant effect quickly drew attention to Ozempic® as a potential weight-loss solution.  Formulations of these molecules were then studied and marketed by the pharmaceutical industry, specifically for weight loss. And that’s how WegovyTM was developed.

Just like Ozempic®, WegovyTM is administered through injections under the skin. In 2021, Health Canada approved it for use to treat obesity, unlike Ozempic®, approved only to treat Type 2 diabetes.

What about side effects?

As with any medication, there are possible side effects to taking Ozempic® and WegovyTM, namely:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • stomach pains
  • hypoglycemia when there is a drug interaction with other diabetes treatments

Other, more serious side effects may also occur. For Ozempic®, for example, the following have been reported:

  • kidney problems
  • gallbladder disorders
  • allergic reactions

Based on a 2022 study, another major side effect is that non-diabetics who took semaglutide regained most of their weight the year after ceasing the drug. So you should follow up with your healthcare professional.

How effective are they?

For Type 2 diabetes, your physician may prescribe Ozempic® as treatment, except where contraindicated, for example, for those under 18, pregnant or breastfeeding women.

For weight loss, a prescription for one of the approved obesity drugs such as WegovyTM (and many others) should be considered, especially when obesity becomes a risk factor for developing other illnesses.

Such treatment can be effective if...

  • Healthcare professionals (doctors, pharmacists) provide a clear framework for its use.
  • You combine it with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
  • You turn to more specialized support, as needed (nutritionist, psychologist, kinesiologist).

To prevent errors or undesirable interactions, managing your medication properly is also key.

Working towards a balanced approach to weight loss

It’s best to proceed with caution with new weight-loss drugs. If you’re considering such treatment, be sure to discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.

After all, health isn’t just about the numbers you see on a scale, it’s about your overall well-being. That’s why a healthy lifestyle goes a long way to simply feeling better about your body.