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WOW Weight Loss with Semaglutide

Crop kid weighing on red scale

If you have not heard about the injectable medication known as “semaglutide” then you will one day soon, so why not just mention it now? If you are trying to lose weight, or if you are not, this has been an incredible year for many people taking this medication. Semaglutide is simply one of the most fascinating stories of 2022 and, no, I do not work with this company, and no, this is not a stock tip, but it is an awareness tip. Semaglutide has been used to help type 2 diabetics control their blood sugar, but it also appears to cause dramatic weight loss in some individuals. How dramatic? Good question. The recent release of two-year data from one of the most well-known trials (versus placebo) found an average body weight loss of 15% with this medication?!1 Say what?! Now, that is some WOW weight loss, and these kinds of weight loss numbers with semaglutide are starting to compete with weight loss surgery results, in some cases.  

This drug works by mimicking a compound released by the body that provides appetite suppression and a variety of other benefits, such as slowing or delaying gastric emptying to make you feel full for longer. “Okay Moyad, you have always said over the past 30+ years that everything comes with a catch, so what is the catch with semaglutide?” Well, I am glad you asked me this question, because it does not come with a catch, but CATCHES! Plural! Man, I love exclamation marks!!! 

First, you must give yourself a subcutaneous injection once a week, probably for life because preliminary evidence suggests when you stop the drug or medication you gain the weight or most of the weight back. Second, the drug is in short supply because the company completely underestimated the demand. Third, if the drug is not covered by insurance, then it costs a fortune, including some folks paying $1,000 or more dollars per month (yes…that is per month…ugh)! Fourth, there are some gastrointestinal side effects to deal with, but the compliance has still been good long-term. Fifth, we do not know the other catches that well because the medication has only been out for several years. HOWEVER, imagine the potential impact of this medication if it is found to be safe and effective in individuals with and without cancer. For example, in prostate cancer it is well known that hormone therapy can cause serious weight gain in some men, so what could this drug do for them? Also, it is important to keep in mind that good competition is coming over the next year or so. There are other medications that work somewhat like semaglutide that could provide body weight percentage loss of 20% or more on average?! WOW! Now, that is incredible! 

The point of this column is simply to raise awareness of the medication, because if it continues to provide heart healthy benefits while reducing substantial amounts of weight, then it could literally positively impact a variety of areas of medicine. Finally, I know what you are thinking… “is Michigan going to win the national championship in football?” Wait, sorry that is what I was thinking and the answer in my mind is ALWAYS “YES.” Otherwise, you are probably wondering what happened to diet and exercise, and that impact on weight loss? Why even talk about a medication? Diet and exercise are also recommended with the medication to help it work even better. But it is also important to realize that, due to genetics, circumstances, disparities, aging, other medications, etc. that losing 10% or more of body weight is extremely difficult for many people. If it was as simple as just changing your diet and/or exercise then everyone could achieve substantial weight loss, but again it is not that simple. Weight loss is extremely difficult and any help that could be provided for the countless individuals that need assistance should be welcomed and embraced if safe and effective. Now, the goal is to get insurance to cover it and to increase the competition to drive the price down, which is another of the many reasons I decided to raise the awareness of the pros and cons of this medication by simply writing about it. Thank you for your time, attention, and for allowing me to insert so many exclamation marks!!! WOW!

  1. Garvey WT, et al. for the STEP 5 Study Group. Nature Medicine 2022; 28:2083-2091.