Every drug has potential side effects. People using Ozempic are finding out about the issues with this popular weight loss medication, which is currently in short supply.

Ozempic’s Side Effects: What You Need to Know

The weight loss drug Ozempic gained popularity last year, and a social media-fueled demand has caused shortages for patients with type 2 diabetes.

Now, more people are noticing the medication’s side effects, including “Ozempic face,” which refers to loose skin caused by rapid weight loss. Dr. Lyle Leipziger, chief of plastic surgery at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, explains, “Rapid weight loss decreases fat volume, especially in the face, causing sagging tissue and skin.” Slower weight loss allows the skin to retract more gradually, causing less damage.

Articles in People and the New York Times mention that this side effect can be fixed with expensive fillers and cosmetic surgery. “The goal of weight loss is to improve health,” said Dr. Vadim Sherman, medical director of bariatric and metabolic surgery at Houston Methodist Hospital. “You can reduce fat and weight, but the skin remains stretched.”

This may be the most visible effect, but it’s not the most serious. Ozempic can also cause vomiting and pancreatitis, although side effects are generally rare.

Most side effects were documented in clinical trials for approved uses, says Dr. Latasha Seliby Perkins, a family physician in Washington, DC, and member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. We don’t fully know the effects on those using the drug for non-approved weight loss purposes.

Ozempic, a brand name for semaglutide, was approved in 2017 to lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Clinical trials revealed a beneficial side effect: weight loss, crucial for many with type 2 diabetes. In 2021, the FDA approved it for weight loss in people with a BMI of 27 or higher with a related health condition or a BMI of 30 or greater. The drug was rebranded as Wegovy, and higher doses were approved.

Both Wegovy and Ozempic are GLP-1 agonists, which suppress the GLP-1 receptors in your brain to reduce appetite. GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide-1, is a hormone involved in blood sugar control. Other GLP-1 agonists include Rybelsus (semaglutide), Saxenda (liraglutide), and Mounjaro (tirzepatide).

Drug Shortages Affecting Those Who Need It Most

The weight loss benefits of Ozempic have made it popular with people who don’t have type 2 diabetes, creating a shortage for those who need it most. “When a drug helps with weight loss, it benefits those with type 2 diabetes,” Perkins said. For others, the benefit is less clear.

Without this medication, people with type 2 diabetes face risks like kidney, heart, and eye disease, and even death, although other medications can help control blood sugar. “Diabetes significantly impacts lives,” Perkins said.

Recently, comedian Chelsea Handler admitted she didn’t know the drug she was using to lose 5 pounds was Ozempic and stopped once she realized it wasn’t suitable for her.

Know What You’re Taking

It’s crucial to know what medications you’re taking and read their package inserts, advises Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, a medical toxicologist and interim executive director of the National Capital Poison Center. “The first page usually provides a general overview,” she said, including important health warnings and potential adverse reactions.

Common Side Effects of Ozempic and Similar Drugs

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain: These are the most common side effects of GLP-1 agonists. Ozempic and similar drugs affect the digestive system, making it more sensitive. Clinical trials showed 20% of people taking a 1 mg dose of Ozempic experienced nausea, with vomiting and diarrhea less common but still present.

Kidney damage: Severe dehydration from vomiting and nausea can lead to kidney injury. Experts advise caution for those with existing kidney disease.

Pancreatitis: Several cases of acute pancreatitis have been reported in people taking GLP-1 agonists. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, rapid heart rate, and a distended and painful belly.

Possible risk of thyroid cancer: A type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid carcinoma was observed in rodents given the drug. While it could be a risk in humans, it hasn’t been proven.

Gastroparesis: This disorder slows or stops food movement from the stomach to the small intestine, causing nausea and vomiting. It usually resolves after stopping the medication.

GLP-1 Agonists Don’t Work for Everyone

Some people see minimal results from GLP-1 agonists, and the reasons are unclear. Future research needs to address why some people respond differently.

Costs and Supply Issues

These medications can be expensive and are sometimes not covered by insurance. They are in short supply due to high demand, impacting those who need them most.

Long-Term Use May Be Necessary

For many, ongoing medication use is necessary for chronic conditions like obesity. “The drug helps change behavior, but obesity is a chronic medical condition requiring long-term treatment,” Wharton said.

Not for Short-Term Weight Loss

These medications are not for short-term weight loss goals. They are for chronic obesity, a neurological issue, not just a behavioral one.

Seeking Help

For those looking to treat obesity, the first step is to talk to your family doctor. Even with medication, diet and exercise are crucial. If your doctor isn’t supportive, seek an obesity specialist. You can find specialists using the Obesity Medicine Association’s portal.

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This post originally appeared on BuzzFeedNews.

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