Conversations surrounding the use of Type 2 diabetes medications like Ozempic and similar medications like Wegovy and Mounjaro for weight loss have inundated social media with users and critics chiming in on the phenomena.
Celebrities and fitness influencers have confessed to using medication for weight loss.
Doctors say they prescribe these medications for patients who need to lose a substantial amount of weight to better their overall health and wellbeing.
This has sparked debates online as people worry about shortages of the Type 2 diabetes medications and whether the drugs should be used for weight loss at all.
It’s not a simple issue.
“The shortages started early in the fall, with Ozempic being the first,” said Caressa Trueman, endocrinology ambulatory pharmacist and PCMH (primary care model home) ambulatory pharmacist at Nebraska Medicine.
According to Nebraska Medicine, Ozempic is a semaglutide which studies have shown is a drug that in addition to treating Type 2 diabetes, helps reduce body weight.
“A lot of providers, to help patients, who I hope were patients who were severely obese and needed weight loss, would prescribe them Ozempic,” Trueman said. “There were a lot of people who were on Ozempic who needed to be on Wegovy, but there was a supply and demand issue.”
Trueman noted there had been improvement in the waitlist for medications since the fall.
Nebraska Medicine used to have a waitlist of 30-40 people; however, they are down to a waitlist of 4-5 patients.
“We are not out of the woods, and a lot of the literature that we have seen has said the shortages won’t be completely solved until March or April,” Trueman said.
Weight loss is not a simple problem, Trueman said. Diet and exercise won’t always help a patient, she said, which leads doctors to medications.
“A lot of primary care physicians believe in trying non-medication related strategies for weight loss, but if you try and it doesn’t work, there is a decent chance something is going on with your metabolism or brain chemistry that we can’t fix with a person’s diet,” Trueman said.
According to Nebraska Medicine, obesity is a legitimate medical diagnosis and medications can potentially help people lose weight.
“From a clinical perspective, my goal is to get as many people on these medications not just to help with blood sugar or weight loss, ” Trueman said.
But for some, drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy can significantly help with obesity problems.
Jenni Haan, a certified physician assistant, and Angie Vogel, an advanced practice medical nurse who both have their own medical practices, work together to help patients achieve their weight loss goals through consultations and telemedicine.
According to Haan and Vogel, obesity is an epidemic and they are able to prevent the disease instead of just treating it.
They have witnessed patients hide their medications because they were afraid they would not be supported in their decision to use medication for weight loss.
Haan and Vogel created “Mounjaro Wegovy Ozempic Patient Support Group NE, IA, ND,” on Facebook. The group is made up of patients struggling with obesity to share their stories and build a community to celebrate each other’s successes.
Erin Glime, a resident in Elkhorn, is a part of the support group. After researching about Mounjaro, she connected with Haan through Facebook to learn more. Glime had done her research, knew what questions to ask and was ultimately prescribed Mounjaro.
“My goal is to lose 100 pounds, so I don’t think Mounjaro is the answer for someone looking to lose 10 pounds,” Glime said. “I think it is the answer for somebody who is going down the path where their health is going to be affected from being overweight.”
Within the first week of starting the medication Glime felt different.
“I was looking at food as a way to fuel my body versus coping with stress or outside influences. It changed my brain’s way of thinking about food,” Glime said.
She tried various diet plans like keto and intermittent fasting and worked with a personal trainer.
“I haven’t been successful without this medication,” Glime said. “We should look at chronic obesity and being overweight just like any other chronic illness.”