Diabetes drug becomes viral weight-loss hit (Elon Musk brags about using it) creating a shortage

featured image

top line

Ozempic, “Hollywood’s worst kept secret”, has become increasingly popular due to its weight loss results – touted even by billionaire Elon Musk – causing shortages, although it is actually intended for use in patients with type two diabetes .

main facts

Ozempic (known generically as semaglutide) is an injection used to lower blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C (the part of red blood cells that glucose is bound to) in type two diabetics; low A1C levels decrease diabetes complications such as stroke, high blood pressure and blindness.

Made by Novo Nordisk, the drug is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor antagonist (a class of drugs used to treat diabetes) that was first approved for use in type two diabetics in 2017 .

To lower blood sugar and A1C, the drug works with the body in three ways, helping the pancreas to produce more insulin when blood sugar is high, slowing down the process of moving food out of the stomach, and preventing the liver from producing and release a lot of sugar.

It is intended to be injected once a week into the thigh, stomach or upper arm, with or without meals at any time of the day, and patients usually begin taking a dose of 0.25 mg, although after four weeks it increases to 0.5 mg and then up to 1 mg if “more glycemic control is needed”.

Of the more than 37 million Americans with diabetes, the vast majority – between 90% to 95% – have type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the side effects of Ozempic is weight loss, so some doctors prescribe the drug as an off-label use (the unapproved use of an approved drug) for weight loss in people without diabetes – Ozempic has not been approved by the FDA as a weight loss medicine.

A study published in The new English journal of medicine found that those taking Ozempic for 68 weeks, combined with a reduced calorie diet and a more active lifestyle, had an average change in body weight of 14.9% compared to a 2.4% change in the placebo group .

These findings caused obese and slightly overweight people to request prescriptions for Ozempic from their physicians.

Although Ozempic is not approved for weight loss, Wegovy, a higher dose version of Ozempic, is approved for weight loss by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2021 for obese or overweight adults with at least one weight-related condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

news book

Wegovy and Ozempic are both listed by the FDA as two of nearly 200 drugs in short supply, their recent rise in popularity for weight loss believed to be the reason for their shortages. Francisco Prieto, a physician residing in California, told the Los Angeles Times that due to shortages, his patients taking Ozempic have to “call multiple pharmacies and drive around town to see if they have stock,” with some still unable to get their prescriptions filled.

chief critic

According to the head of clinical nutrition at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, Dr. Zhaoping Li, people should be careful when using diabetes medication for weight loss. “The thing is, this is one of the tools in our box, it’s not the end-all,” he said. Variety🇧🇷 “The longest study done on these injections was done in less than two years. Many questions were not answered.”

Side effects

Some of the most common side effects caused by Ozempic are nausea, diarrhea, constipation and stomach pain. However, more serious side effects, such as possible thyroid tumors and cancer, can occur. According to Novo Nordisk, if someone takes the drug and experiences shortness of breath, a lump or swelling in the neck, difficulty swallowing, or hoarseness, they should contact their primary care physician.


Ozempic and other diabetes medications like Mounjaro have made their way to Hollywood, with different celebrities and influencers boosting their weight loss as a result of the medications. For example, when someone pointed out Elon Musk’s weight loss on Twitter in October, Musk he responded that he achieved the look through fasting “and Wegovy”. His comment was met with a mix of praise and criticism, with someone mentioning drug shortages, claiming Musk didn’t “need this to lose weight, diabetics REALLY do”. According Variety🇧🇷 drugs have “devotees from every corner of the industry,” with actors, executives and agents glorifying them on Signal, an encrypted instant messaging service used to keep conversations confidential. Even just speculation is enough to spark controversy, and the hashtag #ozempic has over 350 million views on TikTok. Thousands of videos are posted with the hashtag of people sharing their weight loss journeys and before-and-after photos, with some attributing the drug’s rise in popularity on the app to supply shortages.

Further reading

What is Ozempic and why is it getting so much attention? (New York Times)

Hollywood’s New Secret Weight Loss Drug Revealed: The Hype and Dangers of Ozempic (Variety)

TikTok trend ends supply of Ozempic, leaving people with diabetes dizzy and scared (Los Angeles Times)