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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Hollywood Says I Should Use a Diabetes Drug for Weight Loss. Should I?

Posted By: Advancing Care

If you’ve been looking into weight loss solutions, you may have heard about Ozempic, a medication used in diabetes care that also helps with weight loss. The medication, which helps people with diabetes manage their blood sugar and boosts insulin production, has become a hot commodity since it burst on the social media scene as a trending weight loss fad.

Jamie Mullally, MD
Endocrinologist Jamie Mullally, MD

Jamie Mullally, MD, an endocrinologist at Westchester Medical Center, says the medication - already difficult for people with diabetes to obtain because of its high cost – is now in short supply, in part, due to people using the medication “off-label” for weight loss.

“Recently it’s become a TikTok sensation with all kinds of celebrities,” said Dr. Mullally. “There are clear clinical guidelines for who should be prescribed this medication. It is not for vanity purposes.’’

The medication is GLP-1 receptor agonist, which works by sending signals to the brain to suppress appetite. Unlike the earlier generation of appetite suppressants, the medication is highly effective with users typically losing approximately 16 percent of their body weight in a year.

Dr. Mullally says the FDA approved the medication for individuals with type 2 diabetes or those who are clinically diagnosed as obese (a body mass index of 30 or more) or overweight (BMI greater than or equal to 27) with weight-related comorbidities like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or sleep apnea.

Erika Brutsaert, MD
Endocrinologist Erika Brutsaert, MD

“This is not for people of normal weight seeking to lose five or 10 pounds to get into a bikini,’ said Dr. Mullally, who added that the proliferation of telemedicine appointments with providers who are prescribing the medication indiscriminately may be in part to blame for shortages.

Erika Brutsaert, MD, also an endocrinologist at Westchester Medical Center, said that in addition to concern about shortages of the medication for people who really need it, the high cost of the medication means it is not getting to some of the people who will benefit the most.

“I’m very concerned about equity here,’’ she said. “As new medications become available, we want to make sure they are available to everyone who truly needs them.’’

Learn more about Endocrinology and Metabolism services at Westchester Medical Center.