Semaglutide (also called by brand names Ozempic or Wegovy) is the first once-weekly medication in its class that’s FDA approved to help manage chronic weight issues. It works best when used in combination with a healthy diet and is approved for adolescents ages 12 and older. It was originally approved in 2017 at a lower dose under the brand name Ozempic to help control blood sugar in Type 2 diabetes. People taking Ozempic for blood sugar control also began losing weight as an additional benefit. Because of this, Novo Nordisk studied the medication in people with Type 2 diabetes, but at a higher dose. Now, semaglutide can be used by adults with obesity who have a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than or equal to 30 or by overweight individuals with a BMI greater than or equal to 27 with at least one weight-related condition (e.g. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes).
Semaglutide is a GLP-1 agonist (a class of medications used to treat type 2 diabetes) that causes you to feel full, lowering your appetite and causing you to lose weight. It helps lower blood sugar by triggering insulin release and blocking sugar production. It also slows down how quickly food leaves your stomach. This is all done by “mimicking” the incretin hormone released by your digestive tract.
Dosing & Side Effects
Semaglutide is available as a single-use injection pen given once a week on the same day each week. It can be given at any time of the day, and you can take it with or without food. It is typically injected under the skin in your abdomen, upper arm, or thigh. It is recommended to avoid injecting the medication into the same spot every time.
The target dose for both adolescents and adults is 2.4mg once weekly. A typical dosing schedule is 0.25 mg once weekly for the first month, 0.5mg once weekly for the second month, 1mg once weekly for the third, 1.7mg once weekly for the fourth, and finally 2.4 mg once weekly thereafter.
GI side effects that tend to occur most frequently with this medication are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Additionally, patients can experience constipation, stomach pain, headache, fatigue, indigestion, dizziness, bloating, and burping.
Since semaglutide can lower blood sugar, it can interact with other blood sugar-lowering medications. Examples include insulin and medications that cause insulin to be released, like sulfonylureas. Combining these medications can result in dangerously low blood sugar levels. Your healthcare provider can determine which interactions affect you and how to manage them.
Many sources report that once you discontinue using this medication, you may regain the weight back, however it can be a great place to start for some people who suffer from obesity.
As with almost any health challenge, there are several factors and a multitude of approaches to consider when weight loss is the aim. At Peoples, our highly trained pharmacists, wellness staff, and nutritionists are here to help guide you towards achieving your individual health goals, whatever they may be.
Author: Kim Fontenot, RPh, CCN