Be wary of Ozempic, a hypoglycemic drug used for weight loss

A dose of Ozempic (whose active substance is semaglutide), marketed by Novo Nordisk Laboratories.

For months, videos showing women injecting Ozempic, a drug designed for people with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, have multiplied on social networks. On TikTok, the hashtag #ozempic has amassed hundreds of millions of views. But these videos promote it for a completely different purpose than regulating diabetes: the drug is given in higher doses than prescribed for this pathology, and it makes you lose weight.

Ozempic (the active substance is semaglutide) marketed by Novo Nordisk Laboratories has been authorized in the United States in 2017 and in France in 2019. It belongs to a class of so-called GLP-1 analogs — a natural digestive hormone that helps control blood sugar — that were originally used only to stimulate the release of insulin in diabetics. It also has another property: it slows the emptying of the stomach, thereby reducing appetite.

In a joint press release issued on Wednesday, March 1, the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM) and Medicare said Ozempic would be subject to “intensified surveillance” in France. “Reports from the field suggest that non-diabetics are abusing the drug for weight loss,” they are concerned, cautioning that its use must be reserved for diabetics.

counterfeit prescription

Since September 2022, the videos on social networks, along with pharmacists noticing falsified prescriptions and use for weight-loss purposes in non-diabetic people, have alerted drug regulators. “We knew that Ozempic could be abused for weight loss, but we wanted to quantify this abuse,” explained Isabelle Yoldjian, director of medicines for oncology, cardiology and endocrinology at ANSM.

Finish. Between October 2021 and October 2022, about 600,000 patients received the GLP-1 analogue, including 215,000 patients on Ozempic, the health agency and Medicare said. “According to Medicare estimates, 2,185 of these Ozempic recipients could be considered non-diabetic,” she continued. That’s 1% of potential abuse so far.

This enhanced surveillance follows a consultative meeting between ANSM, Medicare, health professionals (physicians, pharmacists), and patient associations. Specifically, sales and reimbursement data from the National Health Data System (SNDS) will be monitored, as well as reports of non-compliant use and adverse reactions reported to the Center for Pharmacovigilance.

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