Watch: Doctor warns about potential side effects of celebrity weight loss drug Ozempic
Ozempic is causing quite a stir right now. The drug, usually prescribed as a type 2 diabetes medication, has also been touted as Hollywood's "worst kept secret" for drastic weight loss.
The most recent champion of Ozempic is Jeremy Clarkson who has recently described his experience of using the drug in a bid to lose weight and help prevent type 2 diabetes.
In his latest column for The Sunday Times titled: “I’ve had a magic jab and my giant gut’s already shrinking” Clarkson, 62, wrote: "I can open the fridge, where there's half a chicken and a juicy bottle of rosé, and I want neither.
"Of course, I'll have to insert some balance in the future, or I'll, you know, die. But for now it's tremendous."
The presenter said he was introduced to the injectable drug after learning that his friends were taking "a new Danish drug called Ozempic" to ward off diabetes and "when questioned they all raved about it".
But experts have warned that there are some potentially nasty side effects to using the drug as an aid to weight loss, with Dr Amir appearing on Lorraine this morning to discuss the controversy and issue some advice.
From how the drug allegedly works to the health risks, here's everything you need to know about Ozempic in 10 points.
What is Ozempic? Ozempic, Ryblesus and Wegovy are all brand names for a compound called semaglutide. The drug is typically used as a diabetes medication, can be prescribed in various doses and can be in the form of a weekly injection – administered in the stomach, thigh or arm – or a daily oral tablet.
The drug reportedly reduces appetite. "It is a once weekly injection and a hormone that our guts naturally produce," explained Dr Amir Khan on ITV's Lorraine show during a discussion about the drug. "It sends messages up to the pancreas to start producing insulin. But one of the side effects is it slows down the movement of food in the gut so you stay fuller for longer and you don't have much of an appetite. That means you eat less which results in weight loss."
The drug is rumoured to be secretly used by many Hollywood stars. On Sunday night at the Critics Choice Awards Chelsea Handler hinted that many celebrities were taking the injectable. "Like when celebrities joke they lost weight by drinking water, but really it's because everyone's on Ozempic," she joked. "Even my housekeeper's on Ozempic."
Searches on social media also continuously link the Kardashians with the drug. But despite Kim Kardashian never confirming her use of Ozempic and her sister, Khloe, issuing a statement denying that she'd used it, it continues to clock up hashtags.
Some celebrities have openly admitted using the drug as a weight loss aid including Elon Musk, who told Twitter he'd tried it – alongside a similar drug, Wegovy. The Tesla founder said the once-weekly injectable was his secret weapon for being "down 30lbs".
It's causing quite the buzz online. Thanks to its reputation as the weight loss drug du jour, Ozempic is quickly clocking up views and shares on social media. On TikTok the hashtag #ozempic already has 414.1 million views and counting, while Instagram is littered with users sharing their "Ozempic journey" to weight loss.
The drug was hailed a potential 'game changer' during an official UK study. It first started causing a buzz in the UK as a weight management tool after a University College London study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found just over a third (35%) of people who took it for obesity lost more than a fifth of their total body weight.
Professor Rachel Batterham, obesity theme director at the UCLH Centre for Weight Management and the Centre for Obesity Research at UCL said: “The findings of this study represent a major breakthrough for improving the health of people with obesity. Three quarters (75%) of people who received semaglutide 2.4mg lost more than 10% of their body weight and more than one-third lost more than 20%.
"No other drug has come close to producing this level of weight loss – this really is a game changer. For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight loss surgery.”
Ozempic does come with risks. Appearing on ITV's Lorraine show, Dr Amir Khan outlined some of the potential side effects. "Of course with any drug, any medication, and this is medication, there are side effects," he said. "The common ones are nausea, vomiting, feeling bloated, diarrhoea, but in some, more serious, cases it can cause inflammation of the pancreas, that's pancreatitis."
Dr Khan went on to say it can also cause gall bladder problems. "It can even cause kidney failure," he added, "so really it should only be available on prescription. I do prescribe it to my patients living with type 2 diabetes, but it's very carefully monitored. It is not just given online."
The drug continues to spark controversy. While the drug is only available on the NHS as a treatment for type 2 diabetes and as a prescribed obesity treatment, it is available to buy online. But doctors have concerns about the risks of those using it not being carefully monitored by a medical professional.
It is also believed that the increase in interest surrounding the drug as a weight loss aid is thought to have caused a shortage for those needing the medication for diabetes.
Clarkson’s celebration of the drug has sparked a debate on social media. Some have criticised the presenter for using the medication as a weight loss method.
“For all those diabetics struggling to find one of the medicines keeping you alive, here’s why: people like Jeremy Clarkson are buying it up to lose weight,” one user tweeted.
Others pointed out that the drug does not currently have FDA approval for weight loss.
“It does not have approval as a weight loss drug and FDA approval only for treating type 2 diabetes – not ‘warding it off’," another user wrote.
Doctors say weight loss medications aren't a magic cure. The NHS advises speaking to your GP for advice about losing weight safely "by eating a healthy, balanced diet and doing regular physical activity".
They can also let you know about other useful services, such as:
local weight loss groups – either provided by your local authority, the NHS or commercial services you have to pay for
exercise on prescription – where you're referred to a local active health team for a number of sessions under the supervision of a qualified trainer