For those considering medication to help with weight loss, Wegovy, a new injectable prescription weight-loss drug, is proving to be a highly promising option. Approved by the FDA in June 2021, Wegovy is for adults with a BMI at or above 30, or for those with a BMI at or above 27 who also have a weight-related medical condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. It is meant to be used in conjunction with a reduced-calorie meal plan and increased physical activity.
Wegovy (semaglutide) comes in five different dose strengths, and it takes about five months to build up to the full dosage. You inject it yourself at home once a week (using a single-use pen), starting off with 0.25 mg once a week and increasing the dose every four weeks until you reach the full dose of 2.4 mg. The reason you gradually increase the dose is to prevent gastrointestinal distress.
How Does Wegovy Work?
There is a hormone in the gut called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that signals to the body that you're not hungry. The Wegovy website explains that this injectable drug "works by mimicking [this] hormone that targets areas of the brain involved in regulating appetite and food intake." So taking Wegovy helps reduce your appetite, which can help you eat less, leading to weight loss.
How Much Weight Have People Lost Taking Wegovy?
In a medical study, 1,961 adults with an average weight of 232 pounds took Wegovy, and after 68 weeks, they lost an average of 35 pounds each, or about 15 percent of their bodyweight. People taking a placebo lost an average of six pounds. All participants were instructed to follow a reduced-calorie meal plan and increase physical activity. People taking Wegovy also experienced improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, although Wegovy isn't approved to treat these conditions.
Worth noting is that the lead trial investigator, Robert Kushner, MD, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, told MedPage Today, "I was surprised and gratified to see the unprecedented results from the medication." He added that this is a weight-loss "game-changer," that half the participants lost at least 15 percent of their initial bodyweight, and that one-third lost at least 20 percent.
People try an average of seven times to lose weight before seeking medical care, W. Timothy Garvey, MD, of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, said in a statement. And unfortunately, they often end up gaining the weight back. He added that adults "were able to lose weight while taking Wegovy and maintain the weight loss at two years."
Common Side Effects of Wegovy
According to the Wegovy website, common side effects include:
- Stomach pain or upset stomach
There can also be more serious side effects, including:
- Possible thyroid tumors, including cancer
- Inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Gallbladder problems
- Increased risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in patients with type 2 diabetes, especially those who also take medicines for type 2 diabetes such as sulfonylureas or insulin
- Kidney problems (kidney failure)
- Serious allergic reactions
- Change in vision in patients with type 2 diabetes
- Increased heart rate
- Depression or thoughts of suicide
Talk to your doctor if you have any medical issues or concerns regarding these side effects.
Is Wegovy Safe?
Internal medicine doctor Chisom Ikeji, MD, told POPSUGAR, "Semaglutide is actually a really great medication. It aids in weight loss by improving metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance." She added that she would absolutely prescribe this medication for someone who has a BMI greater than 27 who is struggling with weight loss.
As far as the more serious side effects, Dr. Chisom said the theoretical risk of thyroid tumor is extremely low, more so if you have a family history. She recommends having a conversation about risk vs. benefits with your doctor and to focus on how to cope with the more common side effects like gastrointestinal symptoms.
How Much Does Wegovy Cost?
Wegovy costs about $1,627 a month before insurance. You'll need to check with your insurance company to see if they cover this type of prescription. If they don't, you may still be eligible for coverage using the options listed on Wegovy's savings and support page.
Is There a Wegovy Shortage?
With the high demand for Wegovy and issues with manufacturing and delivery, there will be continued Wegovy supply shortages. The Wegovy website states, "the manufacturer Novo Nordisk contracts with to fill Wegovy pens for the US market has temporarily stopped manufacturing and deliveries due to issues related to Good Manufacturing Practices." While patients may not be able to fill their prescriptions now, it's anticipated that Wegovy doses will be available again in the second half of 2022.