Ozempic (and similar medications like Wegovy, Rybelsus, and Mounjaro), are all the rage—and for good reason. These drugs, called GLP-1 inhibitors, are helping people with diabetes, obesity, and excess weight shed pounds at an impressive but safe rate. Let’s take a closer look at how Ozempic works and what makes it so effective.
What is Ozempic used for—diabetes or weight loss?
Ozempic (semaglutide) is FDA-approved to treat adults with type 2 diabetes. Ozempic is also clinically proven to aid in weight loss, and when a doctor or advanced practice provider determines it is medically appropriate, Ozempic can be prescribed for treating people with obesity or excess weight.
That’s because excess weight and type 2 diabetes are very closely linked.
People who have excess weight are 3 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than those who don’t. And diabetes is just one of the many risks of having excess weight—it also ups your chances for heart disease and stroke.
The good news is that many of these risks are reversible, and getting closer to a healthy weight may help you avoid these health problems. In fact, when people with obesity or overweight shed pounds in a healthy way, it benefits their entire body, from liver and kidney function to heart and muscle performance.
Do I have obesity or excess weight?
The general guideline is that adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over are considered to have obesity. And adults with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight.
However, for the purposes of determining if weight loss medications are appropriate, the guidelines are more specific. Semaglutide may be indicated when BMI is 30 or higher, or when BMI is at least 27 and there are weight-related medical problems present.
If you want to know your BMI, go to the CDC’s BMI calculator and enter your height and weight. The calculator will place your BMI in one of four categories: underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obesity.
How does Ozempic work?
Ozempic affects your body in 3 main ways:
- Balances your blood sugar levels by increasing insulin release and decreasing glucagon release when your blood sugar levels are high
- Slows down the rate at which your stomach empties, making you feel full longer
- Signals to your brain to suppress your appetite, and as a result, you end up eating fewer calories
How is Ozempic given?
Ozempic pens contain a small needle used to inject the medication into fat tissue just under the skin. You can give yourself the shot in the abdomen or thigh, or someone else can inject the Ozempic into your upper arm. The injection should be taken on the same day each week. Most patients experience no pain or minimal pain during the injection.
How much weight do people lose on semaglutide?
During the 4 clinical trials that studied people without diabetes who injected 2.4 mg of semaglutide once per week, participants lost an average of 14.9% to 17.4% of their body weight after 68 weeks. It’s important to note, though, that Ozempic does not come in a 2.4 mg dose but rather a 2.0 mg dose. However, Wegovy (which also contains the drug semaglutide) does come in a 2.4 mg dose.
A 104-week study showed that weight loss on semaglutide begins to plateau after losing around 15% of body weight. The total weight loss at Week 104 (about 2 years) was similar to the total weight loss at Week 68 (about 16 months). So, it was concluded that the weight lost during the first 68 weeks on semaglutide can be kept off with continued use of the medication (for up to 2 years, at least).
Another research study found that one year after study participants stopped taking their 2.4 mg maintenance dose of semaglutide (a higher dose than the 2.0 mg that is typical for an Ozempic prescription), they had gained back two-thirds of the weight they had lost.
Based on findings like these, it’s fair to say that keeping the weight off may require staying on your maintenance dose long term.
If a full dose of Ozempic is 2.0 mg, why did people in the clinical trials get 2.4 mg doses?
Ozempic, which is FDA-approved for type 2 diabetes, is given at a maximum dose of 2.0 mg of semaglutide. Wegovy, which is FDA-approved for people with obesity and people who are overweight and are experiencing problems due to their excess weight, is given at a maximum dose of 2.4 mg semaglutide. The clinical trials followed the slightly higher Wegovy dosing schedule.
But whether your doctor prescribes you Ozempic or Wegovy, they are prescribing you semaglutide.
What is the correct dose of this medication?
A full dose of Ozempic is 2.0 mg, taken weekly. However, your provider will usually start you off with a smaller weekly dose and work up to the dose that is best for you.
A common weekly dosing schedule looks like this:
- Weeks 1 thru 4: 0.25 mg
- Weeks 5 thru 10: 0.5 mg
- Weeks 11 thru 14: 1.0 mg
- Week 15 and beyond: 2.0 mg
But, it’s important to note that many patients do not need to keep increasing to the full 2.0 mg dose to see results and reach their weight loss goals. Some people continue losing weight on a 0.5 mg or 1.0 mg dose. To find your ideal maintenance dose, you’ll talk with your provider about how you’re feeling on the medication and the progress you are making.
What are the possible side effects of Ozempic?
Most side effects are gastrointestinal (GI) and may be dose dependent. Some patients do not tolerate the maximum dose well, and their maintenance dose is lower to help them avoid side effects. If side effects do occur, they tend to happen soon after injection (especially if you’ve just had a dose increase) then tend to subside. The most common side effects that patients experience include:
- Abdominal pain
To see a full list of possible side effects and to view the complete medication guide, visit the Ozempic website.
Do I still need to watch my diet and exercise if I take Ozempic?
Yes. Ozempic is a part of an overall weight loss and health plan built on a nutrient-rich, balanced diet and a regular program of physical activity. A combination of healthy diet and exercise is always preferred for weight loss over medications or surgery. Medication does not replace eating a well-balanced diet and staying active but rather works along with a healthy lifestyle to improve your well-being.
Where can I get Ozempic for weight loss?
If you’re looking to get back to a healthy weight and have not had success with diet and exercise alone, a QuickMD provider may be able to prescribe you Ozempic via telemedicine.
If during your consultation with a provider the decision is made that you are not a good candidate for Ozempic, your visit will be free. Talk with a provider today through video or phone, or make an appointment to get started.
People also want to know . . .
How to Relieve Nausea While on Ozempic
Are Telemedicine Weight Loss Prescriptions a Good Idea?
What Are the Advantages of Telemedicine?
External Sources Referenced:
ADA. Extra Weight, Extra Risk. 2023. https://diabetes.org/health-wellness/weight-management/extra-weight-extra-risk
CDC. What Is My BMI? September 2, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html
Feingold KR. Oral and Injectable (Non-Insulin) Pharmacological Agents for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes. In: Endotext [Internet]. MDText.com, Inc.; 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/books/NBK279141/
Garvey WT, Batterham RL, Bhatta M, et al. Two-year effects of semaglutide in adults with overweight or obesity: the STEP 5 trial. Nat Med. 2022;28(10):2083-2091. doi:10.1038/s41591-022-02026-4
Klein S, Gastaldelli A, Yki-Järvinen H, Scherer PE. Why does obesity cause diabetes? Cell Metab. 2022;34(1):11-20. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2021.12.012
Novo Nordisk. Ozempic Side Effects. 2023. https://www.ozempic.com/how-to-take/side-effects.html
Obesity Action Coalition. Understanding Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. 2023. https://www.obesityaction.org/get-educated/public-resources/brochures-guides/understanding-obesity-and-type-2-diabetes-brochure/
Wharton S, Calanna S, Davies M, et al. Gastrointestinal tolerability of once‐weekly semaglutide 2.4 mg in adults with overweight or obesity, and the relationship between gastrointestinal adverse events and weight loss. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2022;24(1):94-105. doi:10.1111/dom.14551
Wilding JPH, Batterham RL, Davies M, et al. Weight regain and cardiometabolic effects after withdrawal of semaglutide: The STEP 1 trial extension. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2022;24(8):1553-1564. doi:10.1111/dom.14725