While the news and social media are buzzing with the wonders of the latest weight loss drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists, there is plenty of important information that everyone interested in weight loss needs to know.

Semaglutide, which was developed by Novo Nordisk and is being sold under the brand name Wegovy, shows a weight loss of approximately 15%. A lower dose version called Ozempic, a drug initially approved for diabetes, is also being used “off-label” for weight loss.

A new El Lilly produced GLP-1 drug, which is coming on the market soon, shows even more promise for weight loss. It is believed that these medications can become one of the most commonly prescribed groups of drugs worldwide.

This class of medications is being viewed as timely since more than two-fifths of the world’s population is either overweight or obese which leads to health problems including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, various cancers, and more. Add that to the connection between Covid-19 deaths in those who are overweight and the social stigma of obesity, it becomes even more essential to address the obesity epidemic as it continues to grow.

Semaglutide mimics the feeling of fullness and reduces appetite, switching off the brain’s powerful urge to eat. Patients may likely need to continue taking this medication throughout their lives, however, stopping Semaglutide is associated with much of the weight returning.

As with any prescription drug, users must learn about possible side effects. Since these medications are so new to the market, long-term consequences are not yet known. In lower-dose versions used to treat diabetics, vomiting and diarrhea have been mild. Animal studies show other issues such as a higher incidence of thyroid cancer and rare pancreatitis. New studies are underway to learn more.

Cost is an issue as monthly prescriptions of Wegovy currently run around $1,300 while Ozempic is around $900 monthly. Considering these are life-long prescriptions, their current costs are likely prohibitive to most. It is hoped that the government and large healthcare providers can negotiate costs down to reach larger populations and that competitors will provide new, effective, and cost-saving options.

For now, Dr. Kazi encourages an office visit for anyone considering the use of GLP-1 receptor agonists to discuss a personalized plan.