Individuals who take the weight problems medication Ozempic and Wegovy acquire weight as soon as they cease the medication
Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk’s antidiabetic drug Ozempic (semaglutide) is shown in this photo taken in Paris, France, on February 23, 2023.
Joel Saget | AFP | Getty Images
Patients taking blockbuster anti-obesity drugs Ozempic or Wegovy will regain the pounds after they stop taking the drugs.
“I think that’s what we see when people go on diets or different exercise programs, similar to pharmacological treatment,” says Karin Conde-Knape, Novo Nordisks senior vice president of global drug discovery, said in an interview at CNBC’s Healthy Returns Summit on Wednesday. “As long as you keep your food intake and output the same, you can control your weight. But if you leave that, you will come back immediately.”
Conde-Knape said rates of weight gain after stopping Wegovy vary from person to person, adding that “some come back sooner, some later.” Novo Nordisk makes both prescription drugs.
She said available data suggests most people will regain most of their weight within five years of stopping an anti-obesity drug and about 50% of their weight after two to three years. Some people may actually gain more weight than they originally lost after stopping an anti-obesity drug, Conde-Knape added. Studies have similarly shown weight gain in people who stop taking Ozempic.
She said it has to do with how the drugs work. They mimic a hormone produced in the gut called GLP-1, which signals the brain when a person is full. Calling this a “direct effect on satiety,” she noted that the drugs can also control what type of food people crave.
But she said GLP-1 “doesn’t rewire your neural networks to really define a new set point for body weight.” So, according to Conde-Knape, weight loss may not be permanent.
The Danish drug company still needs to do more research and clinical trials to understand what’s driving this weight gain, “but what’s crucial is that you absolutely have to stay,” Conde-Knape said.
Her comments come after Ozempic and Wegovy were catapulted into the US national limelight in recent years for being “weight loss miracles” in a nation obsessed with body image. In clinical studies, Wegovy has been shown to reduce body weight by around 15%.
Hollywood celebrities, social media influencers and even billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk have reportedly used the popular pen-shaped injections to shed unwanted weight.
Wegovy has been flying off shelves since it received Food and Drug Administration approval for “chronic weight management” in June 2021. So does Ozempic, which was first approved to treat diabetes and is now used off-label for weight loss. That popularity sparked widespread shortages last year, prompting Novo Nordisk to ramp up production of Wegovy.
The shortage and other factors such as uninsured excess or unpleasant side effects have forced some people to stop taking Ozempic or Wegovy. This has led to many complaining about this weight gain, which is difficult to control.
Conde-Knape said the data so far suggests that weight loss is sustained with long-term use of the drugs. However, the company’s data only examines usage for a maximum of two to three years.
“We need to see how much more people can achieve with the longer duration of treatment,” she said.
Correction: Karin Conde-Knape of Novo Nordisk says the available data suggests that most people regain most of their weight within five years of stopping an anti-obesity drug and about 50% of their weight after two to three years . She noted that some people may actually gain more weight than they initially lost after stopping an anti-obesity drug. Your comments were incorrectly linked to a specific weight loss drug in an earlier version of this article.
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