Ozempic is a semaglutide drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the management of type 2 diabetes.
However, more and more people who do not have diabetes are starting to take Ozempic for weight loss purposes.
This article will explain if Ozempic can work as a weight loss drug for those who are not diabetic, the side effects, and the consequences of doing so.
Does Ozempic help you lose weight?
Yes. Ozempic, and semaglutides in general, have been proven to help people lose weight.
Ozempic works by stimulating the pancreas to release insulin, and also stops your liver from producing glucagon. This increases your insulin sensitivity while reducing your insulin resistance.
It also slows down digestion and gastric emptying, helping you to feel fuller for longer.
Common side effects of Ozempic are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and while unpleasant, all lead to appetite suppression, oftentimes resulting in weight loss.
How much weight can you lose by taking Ozempic?
One randomized controlled trial (RCT) found that patients suffering from obesity or who were overweight lost an average of 6% of their body weight after taking semaglutide at 3 months and 11% of their total weight at 6 months.
Another study showed that longer-term use of semaglutides resulted in lasting weight loss of around 10% of total body weight with continued use.
Ozempic and semaglutides in general are associated with more weight loss as you increase your dose. However only change your dose under the guidance of a doctor.
Ozempic works best when taken consistently, along with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. Pairing the medication with a healthy lifestyle is the best way to ensure lasting weight loss.
Results vary by patient, and most people will regain any weight they’ve lost after stopping the medication.
Is Ozempic available for those without diabetes?
Ozempic is only approved by the FDA for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. People who don’t have diabetes may be able to take Ozempic “off-label” with a prescription from their doctor.
“Off-label” means for use other than what is approved by the FDA.
Finding a doctor who will write you a prescription for Ozempic if you do not have diabetes can be difficult. Many people have been able to do this recently, but it is causing an Ozempic shortage for people who have diabetes and take the drug regularly.
However, Ozempic is not intended for people without diabetes to take, and its side effects can be severe.
If you are looking to take a weight loss drug that is approved for people without diabetes, talk with your doctor who can give you options.
Is it safe to take Ozempic if you don’t have diabetes?
You should only ever take prescription medications that are prescribed for you. Never use someone else’s prescription.
However, if you are prescribed Ozempic but don’t have diabetes, it is because your doctor knows and understands your health history, health goals, lifestyle, and personal risks. Since Ozempic may cause severe side effects, they should take that into consideration before prescribing you Ozempic if you do not have diabetes.
In short, there is nothing inherently dangerous about taking Ozempic if you do not have diabetes (it does not work like insulin, which can be deadly if someone without diabetes takes it), but there is no final say on whether it is safe or not.
You should be aware of the risks and side effects and act accordingly. Since it is not approved for use in people without diabetes, the FDA has not released guidelines about its safety and efficacy in people without diabetes.
What are the side effects of Ozempic?
This injectable medication is taken once weekly and can have strong side effects, especially when you first start taking the drug. These side effects may include:
- Suppressed appetite
- Low blood sugar (especially if you’re on insulin)
- Changes in your vision (including worsening of retinopathy)
- Weight loss
Most of these symptoms alleviate after you’re on the medication for several weeks to a month and your body gets used to it.
However, if your side effects are not improving or are getting worse and disrupting your quality of life, contact your doctor.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, and people do. However, there are also FDA-approved weight loss medications for people who do not have diabetes, such as Wegovy.
If you do not have diabetes but are interested in a weight loss medication, talk with your doctor who can offer you alternatives.
It is not advised to take Ozempic if you do not have a prescription for Ozempic.
Since it is a weight loss drug, you should not use Ozempic if you are at a maintenance weight or underweight.
Ideally, you should not take Ozempic if you do not have diabetes, or if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning on becoming pregnant.
Ozempic may cause serious (but rare) side effects, including thyroid C-cell tumors and medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC). Do not take Ozempic if you have a personal or family history of MTC or Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).
Ozempic may cause pancreatitis, it may worsen diabetic retinopathy, and may worsen kidney functioning. All of these complications were reported in the clinical trial. If you currently have diabetic retinopathy or reduced kidney functioning (complications of diabetes), talk with your doctor about whether or not taking Ozempic is appropriate.
If you are on insulin, note that Ozempic may increase the occurrence of low blood sugar levels. You may want to start using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) before starting Ozempic if you struggle with frequent hypoglycemia.
Talk with your doctor about your personal and family health history if you’re interested in a prescription for Ozempic.
There are many reasons to not take Ozempic and the reasons for taking a new drug should be carefully considered under the lens of your health history, reasons for taking a new medication, health goals, and lifestyle.
If you do not have type 2 diabetes, seriously consider your reasons for wanting to take Ozempic, and ask your doctor if any alternative weight loss drugs may be available that are FDA-approved for people without diabetes.
If you do not have diabetes, your health insurance most likely will not cover the medication, so the cost for you will be out-of-pocket and Ozempic is quite expensive, often costing several hundred to a thousand dollars a month for a prescription.
Additionally, you will not want to take Ozempic if you’re allergic to semaglutide or have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) or Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).