Apr 24, 2024  |  
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Elizabeth Crawford

NextImg:Ozempic Scrutinized as Concerns About Side Effects and Costs Mount

Employers and health researchers are evaluating the costs and side effects of Ozempic and Wegovy — trending weight loss drugs — as demand for these products soars. 

Ozempic, according to Axios reporter Caitlin Owens, is technically a Type 2 diabetes drug. The Food and Drug Administration officially approved only Wegovy as a weight loss drug. But official purposes haven’t kept Americans from clamoring for an easy way to drop some pounds. (READ MORE: Weight-Loss’ Miracle Drugs’ Under Fire for Potentially Causing Cancer They May Prevent)

Insurance Companies Scramble to Recuperate Losses

Michael Fumento, writing for The American Spectator, explained how the drugs cause weight loss

The drugs mimic the action of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1. When blood sugar levels start to rise after someone eats, these drugs stimulate the body to produce more insulin. The extra insulin helps lower the blood sugar levels. Lower blood sugar levels are helpful for controlling type 2 diabetes, the kind that develops after birth. And lo! It appears that many of these diabetics are also losing weight. 

It’s not clear how the GLP-1 drugs lead to weight loss, but they definitely help curb hunger, in part perhaps because they slow the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine. As a result, you may feel full faster and longer, so you eat less.

While the drugs do appear to help obese individuals lose weight, the Wall Street Journal reports that insurance costs have skyrocketed as Americans seek to treat their obesity problems. Axios and NBC highlight that there has been little research on the side effects of weight loss drugs. 

“After its costs for the drugs more than tripled over the past 18 months to about $5 million a month, the University of Texas System said it would end insurance coverage of Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Saxenda for its employees and others covered by its health plans effective Sept. 1,” Wall Street Journal reporter Peter Loftus writes.

However, Loftus notes that funding weight loss medication, such as Ozempic, is complicated for most employers. Who doesn’t want healthy, properly functioning employees? 

The rising popularity of the drugs is confounding companies,” Loftus writes. “They may want to help employees who are severely overweight and can have related medical conditions that add to health-insurance costs, but are worried about adding a costly new expense.”

Ozempic’s Possible Connection to Suicidality

In addition to extra insurance expenses — whether those expenses are from Ozempic or from drugs needed to treat obesity-related illnesses — researchers are worried about the drug’s mental health side effects. 

Following reports of self-injury and suicidal thoughts among a small number of people who’ve taken Ozempic or Wegovy in Europe and the United Kingdom, health regulators there are investigating whether the drugs carry a risk of these side effects,” NBC reporter Aria Bendix writes. 

The FDA requires weight loss drugs that “work on the central nervous system” to carry warnings about suicidal thoughts, according to Bendix.

“Because the agency approved Wegovy as a weight loss treatment, its prescribing label asks medical professionals to monitor for these symptoms and to discontinue the medication if people develop them,” Bendix writes. “Ozempic, which is only FDA-approved to treat diabetes, does not come with that warning.”

However, Bendix notes that about 0.1–0.2 percent of participants reported suicidal thoughts during the clinical trials for the weight loss drug. In contrast, Bendix notes that about 4.3 percent of U.S. adults struggle with suicidal thoughts. 

While the short-term effects of Wegovy and Ozempic seem helpful for individuals struggling with obesity, individuals should proceed with caution. The side effects of these medications are unknown, and no one fully understands their implications. Diet and exercise are the most tried-and-true methods to solve weight problems — without harmful consequences. 

Elizabeth Crawford is a rising senior at Hillsdale College studying politics. A member of The American Spectator’s 2023 intern class, Elizabeth enjoys drinking good tea and plans to pursue a career in journalism.


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