Science & Tech

Health expert explains what happens when you stop taking Ozempic

Health expert explains what happens when you stop taking Ozempic
Ozempic costs and its impact on insurance
Fox - 26 Houston / VideoElephant

Ozempic's popularity skyrocketed last year as people sought an easy weight-loss drug, but the number of people quitting the drug is also increasing. So what happens when you stop taking it?

Researchers and clinicians try to use drugs of this class, known as GLP-1 agonists, as lifelong treatments, but industry analysis shows that two-thirds of those in the United States who started taking GLP-1 agonists in 2021, had stopped using them within a year.

There can be many reasons for this, from costs, to side effects, or shortages of the drugs. In the UK, the NHS provides only two years of coverage for people taking the drugs for weight loss reasons.

But as the number of people quitting the drug rises, researchers have been looking into what happens when people stop taking the medication for weight loss purposes.

Ozempic and Wegovy are both brand names for the drug semaglutide. Ozempic has been prescribed for several years to treat type 2 diabetes, whereas Wegovy has been prescribed since 2021 to patients who are overweight or obese.

The drug curbs hunger and food intake by mimicking a hormone that affects the brain regions involved in appetite and reward. The treatment's aim is to reduce the risk of health complications posed by a large amount of excess body fat.

To begin with, those who stop taking GLP-1 agonists regain a substantial amount of the weight they lost with the help of the drug.

An observational study posted in January found that of nearly 20,300 people in the United States and Lebanon who lost at least 2.3 kilograms using semaglutide and stopped taking the drug, 44 per cent regained at least 25 per cent of their lost weight after one year.

A trial that studied the effects of withdrawing from the drug found that participants who were given a placebo injection for nearly a year began "to regain" their original waist circumference, "which is around the key organs where we develop issues like fatty liver disease," according to physician-scientist Fatima Cody Stanford.

Writing for The Conversation, clinician Natasha Yates explained that your hunger comes back because both the brain and gut no longer have the medication making you feel full. Additionally, your blood sugars increase because the medication is no longer helping the pancreas control this.

Health risks, such as heart disease and insulin resistance, can also revert to previous levels once people stop taking the drug. Those who came off of semaglutide in clinical trials often saw a rebound in blood pressure as well as levels of blood glucose and cholesterol, which had improved whilst individuals were on the medication.

Obesity specialist Ayra Sharma told Naturethat people who lost weight with the medication can maintain the weight loss through diet and exercise. However, these individuals are at high risk of regaining the weight if they return to old habits or go through a stressful situation.

But there is no biological harm in suddenly stopping, however it is recommended that individuals slowly taper of the medication to help decrease effects such as increased levels of hunger.

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