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Why All the Hype About Ozempic?

Has any other medication generated as much conversation, debate, and press attention as Ozempic?

Ozempic (aka semaglutide), which belongs to a new class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists, was originally approved for treating Type 2 diabetes (T2D). And it’s very effective at controlling blood sugar levels in people with the disease.

But it’s become increasingly clear that, when used properly, that the drug can have other benefits, as well. 

For one, it’s been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease in people with T2D. 

When it comes to the risk of experiencing these problems, T2D is roughly on par with a previous heart attack. That’s why guidelines now recommend that people with diabetes consider taking Ozempic or a similar drug, even if their blood sugars are well-controlled.

Then there’s the fact that some people who take Ozempic are able to lose five to ten percent of their body weight (although the drug has not been approved by Health Canada for this purpose). 

Recent studies suggest that the drug may also help people with alcohol use disorder to sharply reduce their consumption, too.

Of course, any drug—even Aspirin—carries some risk. 

For example, some people simply can’t tolerate Ozempic, because of gastrointestinal (GI) side-effects such as persistent nausea or vomiting.

I know someone who, after being prescribed the drug for diabetes, found himself unable to muster the energy to get off of the couch much of the time. After stopping Ozempic and switching to insulin, he’s able to function much better. 

There have also been reports of very rare, but serious problems, such as paralysis of the muscles responsible for emptying the stomach. (Then again, Aspirin can contribute to potentially serious stomach bleeding in a small percentage of people.)

On the other hand, a chef I follow on social media has publicly discussed how Ozempic has helped him turn his life around. For years, he’d struggled with his weight and his alcohol intake. After being diagnosed with diabetes, he started taking Ozempic. He was then able to moderate his eating habits, and quit drinking entirely. That, and losing a little weight made him feel well enough to start exercising regularly. 

And he just kept going from there. Over time, he’s lost 120 pounds, and become very physically fit. And when people have commented online that drugs like Ozempic are a ‘lazy’ remedy for weight problems, he’s responded by sharing his story.

You can learn more by reading my most recent ‘Your Questions’ health column for Good Times magazine: What’s All the Hype About Ozempic? Should I be concerned?’

My heartfelt thanks to Dr. Stewart Harris for so generously sharing his time and expertise. 

Dr. Harris is the medical director of the Primary Care Diabetes Support Program at St. Joseph’s Health Care London; professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry (with a cross-appointment to the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics), in London, Ont., and Diabetes Canada Chair in Diabetes Management.

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay