The drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, both brand names for the drug semaglutide, have been approved in many countries for weight loss and diabetes control. These drugs mimic the actions of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1, or GLP-1, which has several effects, including slowing stomach emptying, reducing appetite, and boosting insulin release to regulate blood sugar levels. GLP-1 analogues have been used for over a decade to help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar and experience modest weight loss. However, recent developments have made the drugs more potent and easier to use, leading to their approval for weight loss in people without diabetes.
Wegovy leads to about a 15% reduction in body weight over a year when combined with exercise and healthy eating. However, hair loss and mild side effects such as nausea, constipation, and diarrhea can occur. More worrying side effects include inflammation of the pancreas, though this is rare.
There have been anecdotal reports of people taking Ozempic and Wegovy for diabetes or weight control losing their urge to drink alcohol or experiencing a reduction in other addictive behaviors such as compulsive shopping. Animal research has found that GLP-1 analogues lower consumption of alcohol and addictive drugs, and a small trial in people has hinted at a similar effect. People's weight generally plateaus after the second year of using Wegovy, and if they stop taking the drug, they generally regain the lost weight.
Wegovy has been approved for two years' use in most countries, but there may be demand from consumers for doctors to continue prescribing the drug "off-label" after two years. Ozempic can be prescribed long-term for type 2 diabetes because the condition is usually lifelong.