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A quick Google search of the term ‘Ozempic’ will yield many informational sources highlighting the various personal testimonials and weight-loss promises of the medication. The recent “buzz” surrounding the use of Ozempic, and other recently popular medications used in the setting of weight management, such as Wegovy, and Mounjaro, is hard to ignore. These medications (sometimes referred to as “weight-loss drugs”) are commonly prescribed by a healthcare professional – in combination with healthful eating and regular exercise – to promote weight loss in adults with certain medical conditions. 

It is undeniable that these medications, arguably rising in popularity as a result of their frequent use by celebrities who often tout drastic weight loss transformations, have secured a place in mainstream culture. Now, it is not uncommon for many of us to know of close friends or relatives – whose access to these medications – has stimulated their own weight loss. If a personal health goal of yours for the upcoming year is weight loss, you may have even considered using one of these medications yourself. And, if so, you are not alone: 40% of US adults expressed a desire to lose weight in 2023. It is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. 

As we reflect on our individual health journeys, many of us find ourselves taking the time to set goals for the year ahead, particularly those which can enhance the vibrancy of our health and well-being. Recognizing the place medications hold in the setting of weight management to support individuals who desire to lose weight, we’ve answered some of the most common questions you may have. 

Think one of these medications may help you reach your weight loss goals? Read below for additional information! 

What types of medications are approved for weight loss, and how do they work?

A: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 6 prescription medications to help with weight loss. The names of these medications, while complex, are listed below: 

● Liraglutide 

● Naltroxene-buproprion 

● Orlistat 

● Phentermine-topiramate 

● Semaglutide 

● Setmelanotide 

These medications work in different ways to stimulate weight loss. Some work to suppress your hunger, make you feel full, or both. Others reduce your body’s ability to absorb fat from the foods you eat.

I’ve heard some medications are used “off-label” to help with weight loss. What does this mean? 

A: The use of “off-label” medications to stimulate weight loss is what is mostly being touted today by mainstream culture. “Off-label” use of a medication means the medication is being used to treat a medical condition in a way that has not been approved by the FDA. 

For example, Ozempic, the brand name for select dosing of the medication semaglutide (semaglutide is also sold under the brand names Wegovy and Rybelsus), is now being used frequently to help with weight loss, although the FDA has not approved Ozempic for this medical indication. In combination with healthful eating and exercise, Ozempic has been FDA-approved to improve the blood sugar levels of adults with type 2 diabetes. Ozempic may help you lose weight, although, as stated above, it is not currently approved by the FDA to do so. Ozempic works in a variety of different ways, but ultimately, you should know it suppresses your hunger, making you want to eat less, thereby possibly helping you lose weight. Results from a clinical trial have shown that adults taking 2.4 mg of semaglutide once weekly lost approximately 14.9% of their body weight compared to adults receiving treatment with placebo. 

The use of Mounjaro, the brand name for the medication tirzepatide, is another example of the off-label use of a medication to help with weight loss. In combination with healthful eating and exercise, Mounjaro has been FDA-approved to improve the blood sugar levels of adults with type 2 diabetes. Mounjaro is not FDA-approved to help with weight loss, although it may help support weight loss. 

Are these medications right for me? 

A: To determine if any of the use of these medications are right for you in the setting of weight management, a HerMD healthcare professional will first conduct a comprehensive/detailed review of your medical history and discuss certain lifestyle factors with you. In some cases, your healthcare professional may recommend the use of medication for weight management if you meet certain thresholds, such as co-existing medical conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. These medications may be especially useful if you haven’t been able to meet your weight loss goals through healthful eating and exercise alone. 

If you are considering being evaluated by a HerMD healthcare professional in order to use any of these medications, it is important to remember that medications, while helpful, are not meant to replace healthful eating and lifestyle habits. These factors are foundational for optimal health and well-being. 

A detailed weight loss program often entails a multifaceted approach, combining medical and psychological care to achieve success in your weight loss journey. Medications, dietary counseling, and approaches to physical activity are provided at HerMD, as well as the opportunity to explore psychological counseling to examine your relationship to food and eating habits.

Are there side effects to these medications? 

A: All medications have the potential to cause side effects, and medications used in the setting of weight management are no exception. Each of these medications has a unique side effect profile, which a HerMD healthcare professional will review with you in detail if they feel you may be a good candidate for a certain medication. Across the side effect profiles of these medications, some commonly reported side effects include nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, constipation, and diarrhea, although this is not an all-inclusive list of the possible side effects. 

If my healthcare professional determines a certain medication is right for me, how much weight can I expect to lose? 

A: Ultimately, the amount of expected weight loss when taking these medications will vary. The amount of weight you may lose will be dependent upon the specific medication you take and your individual health profile. However, research has shown that with use of these medications, on average, adults can expect to achieve, at minimum, a 5% reduction in their body weight. 

Will my insurance cover these medications? 

A: Your medical insurance carrier determines all covered medications, services, and treatments. Therefore, whether a medication used for weight management purposes will be covered by insurance will ultimately be dictated by your specific insurance carrier and plan. At HerMD, our healthcare professionals can work with your insurance carrier to determine if coverage is possible for these medications, but ultimately, your insurance carrier will provide a final decision with respect to coverage of one of these medications. Without insurance coverage, you should know the anticipated out-of-pocket cost for any of these medications tends to be high. 

At HerMD, we recognize every individual is working towards achieving unique goals that support their overall health and well-being. New and healthful eating habits, increased physical movement, and mindfulness are some of the many goals that can support health and well-being across the lifespan. If weight loss is one of the many health goals you set for yourself in the new year, we are here to support you. We recognize you are so much more than a number on the scale. We partner with our patients to formulate a treatment and lifestyle plan to optimize health outcomes. In other words, we help you live your best life, on your terms!

Michelle D. Nezolosky

Michelle is the Director of Programs, responsible for leading the education and health intervention programs at HerMD. She supports the health and well-being of staff and patients through training and education, community outreach, and research initiatives.

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