Semaglutide. All you need to know about the newly approved weight loss drug.

    H1: Semaglutide. All you need to know about the newly approved weight loss drug.

    2021 saw monumental progression for the universal treatment for obesity. The main shift being thepeptides for fat loss advancements with the recent approval of a new medication.

    Just seven months ago, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Semaglutide[i] (brand name Wegovy), a weight loss drug initially developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The decision by the FDA makes Semaglutide the first approved drug treatment for weight management since 2014.

    H2: What is Semaglutide, exactly?

    Sold by multinational pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, Semaglutide is a once-weekly injection that helps manage weight in individuals struggling with overweight tendencies and weight-related conditions such as high blood pressure, as well as those suffering obesity.

    The drug does not increaselean muscle mass or help torestore gut health, but works solely to reduce fat within the body by helping with the production of insulin. 

    The FDA says that the drug is to be used only in patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or greater who also have at least one weight-related condition, or in patients with a BMI of 30 or greater.

    H2: How does it work?

    The injection medication works to moderate human hunger hormones by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 targets the area of the human brain that regulates appetite and food consumption. Semaglutide suppresses this area by increasing the production of insulin, and thus helping to regulate blood sugar.

    Wegovy conducted a safety and efficacy study of the drug for weight loss over four 68-week trials. The trial saw more than 2,600 patients receive Semaglutide for up to 68 weeks, compared with more than 1,500 patients who received placebo in the same period.

    The research found that patients taking Semaglutide lost 15-20% of their overall body weight in the 68-week period. Those taking placebo during the same period were found to have lost only 2.4% of their body weight.

    H2: Why the Hype?

    In the last year, Semaglutide has made a racket in the healthcare industry, causing a massive disruption to the way both experts and the public think about solutions for weight loss.

    The positive results on weight loss gathered from the study were the initial catalyst for traction to the new treatment for obesity. But the hype grew even further when American entrepreneur and software engineer, Marc Andreessen gave the drug a PR lift. In an episode of “Lindy Talk” podcast, Andreessen titled the drug the “silver bullet”[iv] of appetite suppression.

    “It just completely changes your relationship with food. You’re just not hungry,” he said. 

    Since the release of the podcast, growing media attention and public interest has seen shortages in supply of Semaglutide, with demand for the drug exceeding supply within months of it hitting the market.

    H2: What’s the catch?

    Semaglutide is considered a safe injectable substance with obvious results, however, even this new “miracle drug”[ii] for weight loss has its list of minor and temporary side effects. 

    The most common side effects of the Wegovy product according to the FDA include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal (stomach) pain, headache, fatigue, dyspepsia (indigestion), dizziness, abdominal distension, eructation (belching), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in patients with type 2 diabetes, flatulence (gas buildup), gastroenteritis (an intestinal infection) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (a type of digestive disorder).

    Beyond this, it has been proven in multiple studies that in order for patients to keep the weight off, they need to continue taking Semaglutide long term. One study[iii] showed that patients using the drug over a 20-week period regained nearly all of the weight they had lost upon ceasing the treatment.

    With all of this information at hand, some experts are still concerned about the long term effects of the treatment. 

    Rachael Hartley, a registered dietician and specialist in intuitive eating, says the Semaglutide hype fits into a pattern of healthcare providers pathologizing people with larger bodies, rather than prioritizing people’s health regardless of size. 

    “I get really concerned about a medication in which the method of action is putting the pancreas into overdrive,” she says.

    While Semaglutide remains safe to use for the purpose of weight loss, the lack of data as to the long-term effects remain in question.