For two months Kerry Yazid took Ozempic, the drug worked as intended. Yazeed has type 2 diabetes, and the weekly injections lowered his blood sugar levels. But it also brought side effects including vomiting, fatigue, headache and stomach cramps, which she found intolerable.
Yazeed said that five weeks after taking the drug, he found himself unable to get up from the bathroom floor.
“I vomited so much I didn’t have the energy to get up and I was basically laying in it,” she said. “I couldn’t even lift my head to vomit in the commode. It was so bad.”
The serious effects Yazid suffered are not common, but the experiences of people taking Ozempic and its companion drug Vegovi can vary widely – from substantial weight loss and minimal discomfort at one end of the spectrum to extreme effects on the other.
NBC News talked to 10 people about their experiences taking these blockbuster drugs, both of which are forms of semaglutide. They are designed to mimic a hormone that signals the brain when a person is full and promote the release of insulin, a hormone that prevents blood sugar from getting too high. In turn, the drugs can lower blood sugar levels and suppress appetite.
They have grown in popularity over the past year, fueled by social media attention and Billionaires like Elon Musk Exploiting the weight loss effects of drugs.
Ozempic prescriptions are set to triple from 2021 to 2022, according to data from prescription drug discount company SingleCare, which has more than 5 million members. Last year, high demand and global supply constraints led to shortages of the drugs. FDA reported veggie crunch in March 2022, followed by a olympic reduction in August.
Many people interviewed said that the benefits they got from the drugs outweighed the side effects.
“It feels lighter to walk in. My clothes fit much better and are more comfortable,” said Stacey Bollinger, an account director. in Maryland, who reported losing 52 pounds since starting Vegovy. “It’s as easy as bending over to tie my shoelaces.”
Some people said they feel fine on the drugs. But Yazeed and some others described side effects that forced them to stop taking the drugs or question whether they could stay on them long term.
The obesity medicine experts who prescribe Ozempic and Vegovy say these drugs can change patients’ lives and health. The effects of weight loss can enable patients to do activities they previously could not do, such as chasing after grandchildren or finding clothes that fit in mainstream stores. Semaglutide may also address health issues associated with obesity and diabetes, such as a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
“By treating obesity, you are effectively treating more than 200 other obesity-related or weight-related diseases,” says Dr. Ania Jastreboff said. Jastrebaugh serves on the scientific advisory board of Novo Nordisk, which makes Ozempic and Vegovy.
account of dramatic weight loss
The Food and Drug Administration approved Ozempic in 2017 for people with type 2 diabetes, then Vegovi — the same drug, scaled up to higher doses — in 2021 for weight loss in adults who are obese or who are overweight and Those who are underweight have an associated health condition, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol. Ozempic is not approved for weight loss, but doctors sometimes prescribe it off-label for that purpose.
Most people who took Ozempic or Vegovy said it reduced their appetite and reduced their cravings for unhealthy foods. Bollinger and Randy Lee Harper, a software developer in the Seattle area, each reported losing more than 50 pounds.
harper took Ozempic off-label for weight loss from May to November (she stopped while moving to Washington state but plans to start again). She said she still enjoys her favorite foods — like truffle mac n cheese and Sour Patch Kids candy — but her portions were smaller.
“You don’t realize how much your life is centered around food when you’re overweight, unless you’re on a diet that makes you think about it so much,” Harper said. doesn’t allow.”
For the most part, she said, she responded well to the drug, although occasionally she would overeat — a fairly common side effect.
As far as Bollinger’s concerned, she said that in addition to her weight loss, her average blood sugar level has dropped to the point where she’s no longer pre-diabetic.
a study A study of more than 1,000 people with type 2 diabetes found that semaglutide was more effective than insulin at lowering blood sugar. The participants did not see results from other antidiabetic drugs they continued to take during the trial. in another study Among nearly 2,000 overweight or obese adults without diabetes, those taking semaglutide lost an average of 34 pounds in less than 16 weeks, compared with 6 pounds among those receiving a placebo.
Dr. C. Nicole Swiner, a family medicine physician in Durham, North Carolina, said she started taking Vegovi in 2021 after seeing how much it helped her patients. She’s lost 30 pounds since then, she said.
“Because I’m not starving, I can actually stop and make a better decision.” [rather] Compared to, ‘Oh my God, I’m hungry. Let me take whatever is in the office kitchen,’ which is usually junk,” Swiner said.
On Vegovy, she said, she eats less overall and swaps out sugary treats like cookies or muffins for healthier options like yogurt or fruit.
For Yazeed, weight loss was not the reason she went on Ozempic, nor was it a goal. But while on the drug, she said, she had to force herself to eat and often couldn’t stomach anything but a protein shake in the morning. On a good day, she can even tolerate chicken broth.
She lost 10 pounds in two months, going from a size 12 to an 8 or 10.
Patients who stop taking the drug gain weight again
Like many drugs, the effects of semaglutide wear off when patients discontinue it, so some people regain the weight. Experts said they consider Ozempic and Vegovy to be lifelong drugs.
“Our clinical trials for Vegovy have shown that, not unexpectedly, patients experience weight gain after they stop taking the drug,” Novo Nordisk told NBC News in a statement.
“This supports the belief that obesity is a chronic disease that requires long-term management, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, for which most patients are on long-term therapy,” the company said.
Ebony Wiggins, who has type 2 diabetes, said she has gained back about 15 pounds of the 25 pounds she lost last year while taking Ozempic.
Artemis Bayandor, who lives in Naperville, Illinois, said she now weighs more than when she took Vegovy: Within a month of discontinuing the drug, she gained back the 15 pounds she lost on the drug, she said, plus the extra 10 over the next six months.
“For the first week I was fine, and for the second week I went back to cravings all right, but worse,” Bayandor said.
Side effects put some people off the drugs
Courtney Hamilton hasn’t lasted more than a month on Ozempic, which her doctor prescribed off-label because Hamilton has type 1 diabetes, not type 2.
Her nausea got so bad she could barely eat, Hamilton said, and the foods she could tolerate weren’t particularly healthy.
“Ironically, it made me stick to very starchy, carby foods like potatoes because they’re so bland. I ate lots and lots of plain toast,” she said.
People usually start with a low dose of Ozempic or Vegovy, then ramp up to reduce side effects. Some serious effects could be the result of increasing that dose too quickly, said Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“If the patient is saying, ‘Oh my God, I’m sick. I can’t even go to work, I’m vomiting all day,’ maybe this dose isn’t an appropriate dose for them,” Stanford said.
in clinical trials73% of adults taking the highest dose of Vegovy reported gastrointestinal issues. Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, and abdominal pain are the most common. some people have Reported More serious, though rare, side effects such as pancreatitis and kidney failure.
Novo Nordisk said patients experiencing nausea as a side effect should contact their health care provider for guidance on how to manage it.
Jastreboff said she encourages her patients to eat smaller, more frequent meals, not eat beyond the point of fullness, and monitor which foods aggravate their symptoms. He said most side effects occur when people are increasing their dosage, then subside once they reach the maintenance phase.
Megan Cornelius, who has been taking Ozempic off-label for type 1 diabetes for several years, said she was nauseous and tired at first but those effects faded over time.
“As long as I can keep taking it, I probably will,” said Cornelius.
For Eric Joiner Jr., a former type 2 diabetic, Ozempic hasn’t done anything beyond its intended effect: improving his kidney function — an off-label application of the drug. Joiner developed chronic kidney disease as a byproduct of his diabetes.
He said he hasn’t experienced side effects or weight loss from Ozempic, but he admits this isn’t true for everyone.
“At the end of the day, it’s a very personal thing,” he said. “Your biology is different than mine.”