Increased popularity on social media has led to a shortage of the diabetes medication Ozempic in Sweden. But is the medicine really a “miracle cure” for obesity?
At the end of January raised the alarm The Swedish Diabetes Association that there is a shortage of the diabetes medication Ozempic in Sweden. The drug has recently become known as a means for weight loss, as its active substance semaglutide has been shown to be effective for weight loss.
Has millions of views on TikTok
Ozempic’s greatly increased popularity as a “miracle cure” for obesity is largely due to the fact that the drug has become a talking point on social media.
On TikTok, the hashtag “ozempic weightloss” (“ozempic weight loss” in Swedish) has over 200 million views at the time of writing, and in several videos users talk about the effect the diabetes medicine has had on their bodies.
It is also rumored that several celebrities have used this type of drug to lose weight quickly. For example, many believe that Kim Kardashian used diabetes medication to get the Marilyn Monroe dress she wore to last year’s MET Gala.
How does Ozempic work?
IN After five explains doctor Marcus Olausson that Ozempic affects gastric emptying so that the stomach empties more slowly, which leads to reduced appetite. The medicine also raises insulin in the body so that the cells can better pick up the sugar. Overall, this leads to weight loss.
Olausson says that in the past month he has started receiving requests about the drug from people who want to use it to lose weight. However, he is critical of prescribing Ozempic to people who do not have diabetes:
“If you prescribe this drug to people who are overweight or who want to lose weight, we get this displacement effect that we see,” he says. “Our healthcare system is based on the fact that those who need care the most should get it, and in this case, this is a diabetes drug, and there are other drugs to lose weight if you are overweight.”
What is “Ozempic” face?
The increased use of Ozempic has given rise to a new expression among plastic surgeons: “Ozempic face”.
The strong and rapid weight loss that Ozempic leads to often causes “key areas” of the face to lose volume in a way that makes you look older. Plastic surgeon Dr. Oren Tepper tells about the phenomenon for The New York Times:
“When it comes to facial aging, fat is typically more positive than negative,” he says. “Weight loss may reset the biological clock, but it tends to age the face.”
According to Tepper, fillers are the only non-invasive method that can fix the problem – something that can cost thousands of dollars. He also believes that extensive and rapid weight loss can mean that fillers are not enough to restore the face’s youthful appearance. Then more thorough intervention becomes the only way out.
The plastic surgeon says that he often treats “Ozempic faces” with a type of facelift that costs the equivalent of 780,000 kroner. The facelift is supplemented with fat taken from other parts of the body and injected into the face, which usually costs an additional 125,000 Swedish kronor.
At the same time, the drug has far more serious potential side effects than “Ozempic face”. According to Ozempic’s own website in the worst case, the medication can cause “thyroid tumors, including cancer”.
Even the manufacturers behind Mounjaro, a drug similar to Ozempic, warn of this potential side effect. They also list nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, indigestion and stomach pain as side effects.
The doctor: “A patient examination is needed”
Although these types of drugs can have a harmful effect, it is not uncommon for them to be prescribed to people who do not suffer from type 2 diabetes or obesity, even here in Sweden.
In a report published by DN in January, a reporter who has neither type 2 diabetes nor an abnormal BMI was prescribed the drug by digital healthcare provider Yazen – this after she said she had previously weighed a little more.
Erik Uddman, senior physician at the endocrinology clinic at Skåne University Hospital and former obesity doctor, believes that Ozempic is often prescribed as a weight loss medicine without a proper investigation first:
“A patient investigation is needed, and it should take place during a physical care session. In addition, frequent follow-ups and checks should be carried out,” he tells the newspaper.