21/02/2024
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CLOCK: Explore the side effects of popular weight loss drugs

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As the popularity of injectable weight loss drugs like Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy continues to grow, some users of the drugs are speaking out about the reality of the side effects reported by the drugs.

Lee Thomas, who lives in Washington state, said he lost 12 pounds after nearly seven weeks of using Ozempic, one of a class of drugs called GLP-1 RAs that help people make insulin and lower the amount of blood sugar. The drugs work by slowing the movement of food through the stomach and curbing the appetite, thus causing weight loss.

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Thomas told ABC News that he initially experienced nausea and gastrointestinal problems during treatment, but found that consuming plenty of water and protein helped ease these symptoms.

“It’s been pretty minor with the stuff I’ve done,” Thomas said of the side effects he’s experienced. “And if I can feel it starting to come, I can take care of it pretty quickly.”

Lee Thomas of Washington state talks to ABC News about his experience with Ozempic.

Both Ozempic and Mounjaro are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but some doctors prescribe them “off-label” for weight loss. Wegovy is specifically approved for weight loss for obese or overweight people.

Ozempic and Wegovy are made up of a compound called semaglutide, and Mounjaro contains a compound called tirzepatide.

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While people can get semaglutide under the brand name Ozempic or Wegovy, some people, due to shortages and cost, have also gained access to an off-brand version of the drug through pharmacies that create their own semaglutide compound, using the raw ingredients . There are risks associated with obtaining semaglutide through that route because the compounds are not regulated by the FDA.

Ashley Harkins of Ohio told ABC News that she has been taking a generic semaglutide compound for nearly two weeks. She told her so far she hasn’t experienced any side effects, but she has lost her appetite.

“I fully expected to be sick,” Harkins said. “But no, I feel great.”

Ohio’s Ashley Harkins talks to ABC News about her experience with taking a generic semaglutide compound.

Heather Winterstein, who uses Mounjaro, said she felt nauseous when she started taking the drug.

She said her doctor prescribed Zofran, an anti-nausea drug, to ease her symptoms, and she continued to take Mounjaro for nearly nine months. In total, she said she lost 73 pounds and is no longer taking medications to treat high blood pressure.

“My medical history alone from pre-on this drug to six months was astronomical,” Winterstein, who lives in Mississippi, told ABC News. “I had very high blood pressure. I was actually on two high blood pressure medications.”

Heather Winterstein of Mississippi talks to ABC News about her experience with Mounjaro.

Eli Lilly, the maker of Mounjaro, and Novo Nordisk, the maker of both Ozempic and Wegovy, told ABC News that people experiencing side effects from using the drugs should contact their healthcare professionals.

To date, there have been no reports of irreversible side effects associated with the use of Ozempic, Wegovy or Mounjaro.

MORE: Woman shares what happened after she stopped taking semaglutide

Dr. Sethu Reddy, president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology, said the main side effect of the drugs is nausea. Medications can also cause constipation.

“Side effects are minimal. They are very well tolerated,” Reddy told ABC News. “Side effects mostly include nausea, stomach pain, sometimes vomiting.”

The drugs cannot be given to patients with certain medical conditions, including medullary thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, or gallstones.

Their safety has not yet been established in minors.

MORE: What to Know About the ‘Ozempic Face’ as Some Users Say Diabetes Drugs Used for Weight Loss Leave Them Thin

Both Winterstein, who uses Mounjaro, and Thomas, who uses Ozempic, said that, more than any physical side effects, the primary impact of the drugs they noted is the attenuation of what they describe as the “food noise” in their heads.

“I’ve never been able to get over it because I’m trying to figure out how to have a better relationship with food while food is yelling at me in my mind all the time, and it’s never worked out,” Thomas said. “And so, now that it’s quiet.”

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