Diabetes medicines being used for weight loss, professor says

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 7:48 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Prescription drugs Ozempic and Mounjaro, intended for Type 2 diabetes patients, are now being used by many people to help spur weight loss, according to a professor at Auburn University.

With the drugs selling faster, Jeanna Sewell with Auburn University’s pharmacy school says some diabetics can sometimes have a hard time finding enough supplies.

Starting in late 2022, pharmacies have had a hard time keeping Ozempic and Mounjaro in stock. These drugs were originally intended to keep sugar levels at bay for Type 2 diabetics. Now, with people using the medicine for weight loss, doctors have had to resort to alternatives.

“I actually have a patient that I talked to this week who’s been on Ozempic and we haven’t been able to get the drug for her so we had to change her drug therapy,” said Sewell.

Sewell says some doctors are even prescribing multiple drugs at a time. She said while other drugs can help with blood sugar, they may not be as effective at preventing heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.

This brings up the question if drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro are safe to use for weight loss. It’s believed the drugs help with weight loss by mimicking an appetite-regulating hormone.

“We have the evidence saying that it works for weight loss We know that it works, and I personally know people that it’s been very effective,” said Sewell.

And while it may work quickly, doctors say it doesn’t mean the weight is gone for good.

“Most of the data has now shown that patients who stop the therapies don’t have continued weight loss after the therapy is discontinued. Some of them gain the weight back,” said Sewell.

While Sewell is confident these drugs are safe, she said she is a little concerned about a lack of research that has been done on Mounjaro.

Long-term studies are still underway and could reveal long-term effects from using these drugs for weight loss.

As for when pharmacies will see these drugs back on their shelves, Sewell says at this is currently a manufacturing issue and the companies will need to start making more of the drug to meet the higher demand.

The drugs are not always covered by health insurance for weight loss purposes, meaning they can cost up to $1,000 a month for some people.

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