Ozempic side effects could lead to hospitalization, and doctors warn long-term impacts remain unknown


Drugs like Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy they are extremely effective for weight loss. But losing weight isn’t the only change patients can experience.

Tirzepatide, sold under the brand name Mounjaro, and semaglutide, sold under the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy, are given once a week by injection. Mounjaro is known as a GIP and GLP-1 receptor agonist, while Ozempic and Wegovy are known as GLP-1 receptor agonists.

Mounjaro and Ozempic were initially sold as diabetes medications, while Wegovy is specifically for weight loss. Wegovy is FDA approved for weight loss; Ozempic and Mounjaro are not.

These drugs were originally prescribed to patients with type 2 diabetes because they produce insulin and lower blood sugar. They also release a hormone that slows digestion and keeps food in the patient’s stomach longer. This process suppresses appetite and leads to weight loss, but this can affect the body.

What are the most typical side effects?

The most common side effects of Ozempic, according to the drug’s website, are nausea, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting.

Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic and Wegovy, told CBS News that the drugs “are a well-established class of drugs that have demonstrated long-term safety in clinical trials. The most common adverse reactions, as with all LPGs -1, they have a gastrointestinal relationship.”

Dr. Meera Shah, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, said by far the most common side effect she sees in patients is nausea, followed by abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea. These side effects can sometimes improve over time, but according to Shah, at least 10% of patients who start these drugs have to come off them because the side effects don’t improve.

Constant nausea and abdominal pain is an unpleasant reality. The stomach and the brain are so connected that gut problems can lead to stress, anxiety and depression; is what is known as “gut-brain connection.”

“Chronic abdominal pain and unpredictable digestive symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, fullness or constipation can significantly affect your mood and energy levels,” Laurie A. Keefer, academic health psychologist and director of psychobehavioral research at the Division of Gastroenterology. at Mount Sinai, he told CBS News.

Keefer said these symptoms can make patients feel isolated, overwhelmed and ashamed.

“Anxiety about when and where symptoms will occur can also lead to avoidance of social activities, especially those where food is the focus, or when bathrooms may not be readily available. Because the brain and gut are so connected, emotional symptoms can in turn worsen gastrointestinal symptoms, creating a vicious cycle,” he said.

What are the most extreme side effects?

Other serious side effects of Ozempic include thyroid tumors, pancreatitis, vision changes, hypoglycemia, gallbladder problems, kidney failure, and cancer.

The most serious complications Shah sees in his patients are pancreatitis and gallbladder problems, both of which can lead to hospitalization.

Although not mentioned on Ozempic’s website, doctors have reported some patients, their appetites so suppressed, experience malnutrition. Shah said he usually has to advise patients to take multivitamins or protein supplements in addition to medication because they don’t get the nutrients they need from food.

Model and TikTok star Remi Bader said on the “Not Skinny But Not Fat” podcast earlier this year that a doctor prescribed her Ozempic after she was found to be pre-diabetic and insulin resistant. Weight loss was also a goal. But after coming off the medication, Bader regained the weight she lost while on Ozempic, which subsequently intensified her binge eating disorder.

Eating disorder experts have stressed that hunger suppressants of any kind can lead to or get worse eating disorders. Eating disorders are not cured by losing or gaining weight.

Shah said the hardest part of her job today is trying to decipher whether patients who come to her for weight-loss drugs also have eating disorders. Sometimes patients tell him they have a history of eating disorders, in which case he recommends they talk to a behavioral psychologist on staff.

What about the long-term effects?

It is not clear how these drugs, when prescribed for weight loss, affect the body after years of use.

“There is a lot of excitement about the good [these drugs] they are, and they’re certainly very good, but there’s a little bit of an unknown long-term,” Shah told CBS News. “At some point does your body stop responding? I do not know.”

But weight-loss advocates warn that there are also long-term health risks from obesity. According to the CDC, “people who are overweight or obese, compared to those who are at a healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions.” These risks include high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and stroke.

If you or someone you know needs help, call Anorexia nervosa and associated disorders Toll Free Helpline at 1-888-375-7767.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated Mounjaro’s status. It is FDA approved for the treatment of diabetes.

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