High rates of obesity and the effectiveness of weight loss drugs are creating a huge demand for drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro.
What some people may not know is that these anti-obesity medications do not come in pill form, but instead have to be injected into the fatty parts of the body. As they have become increasingly popular for combat obesity and the side effects that accompany it, A Maryland doctor said he wants potential patients to be as knowledgeable as possible.
To Dr. Matthew Mintz, Specialized Internal Medicine Physician in medical weight loss, He is not surprised by the drugs' sudden popularity.
"When so many people are overweight or obese, and we now have a drug that appears to be quite effective in helping these patients lose weight, it's no surprise that demand is through the roof," he said.
Compared to older methods of weight-loss medications, these new injectables like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro help patients lose weight and keep it off, Mintz said.
These medications were originally used to treat diabetes and other metabolic syndromes, although They have recently been approved at the federal level for weight loss. They belong to a medical class called glucagon-like peptides, or GLP-1, which mimic insulin, the peptide hormone that helps the body control blood sugar. GLP-1s send signals to the appetite center in your brain to make you feel full faster.
“They tell the pancreas, which secretes insulin, that when you eat food, it secretes insulin. And that's how it lowers blood sugar.”
Medications help diabetics and now non-diabetics lose weight in two ways, he said.
“One is that it delays gastric emptying, meaning it tells the stomach to keep food in it for longer. And that makes you feel full,” Mintz said. “The other thing it will do is… signal to the brain that you are full. “Basically, what these medications do is make you feel full.”
The main side effects are nausea and diarrhea, but Mintz said that's not a big concern for doctors and shouldn't last long.
"So while that's the main and only significant side effect, that's how the drug works," he said.
When prescribed correctly, these medications are safe even if you are not diabetic. But they are not a "magic drug."
"Any weight loss medication, including these, takes a lot of time: You have to talk about diet, you have to talk about exercise, you have to talk about lifestyle changes," Mintz said. “You can 'eat' these medications, so anyone who thinks they can inject themselves once a week and all their problems will go away, it doesn't work that way. And that takes a long time.”
But not all insurance plans will cover expensive medications. And anyway, many professionals are having a hard time prescribing it due to nationwide shortages.
Because these medications are still manufactured exclusively by their original manufacturer, combined with a type of “patented technology” that “magically injects them,” out-of-pocket costs can range from $400 to $1,000 each month.
Mintz recommends only getting your prescription from a real, experienced doctor, as well as asking questions about the origin of the medication.