The drug Wegovy is an American prescription injectable approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the management of weight.
The medical research on Wegovy will be examined in this article to determine whether it is likely to be safe and effective for weight loss. We’ll also discuss its side effects. Wegovy will be contrasted with other well-known injections for weight loss, such as Saxenda.
Table of Contents
What Is Wegovy And How Is It Used?
Novo Nordisk has released a new drug called Wegovy. With brands like Novorapid, Levemir, and Actrapid, Novo has long been a significant player in the diabetes market. The Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, which include the diabetic medications liraglutide (Victoza) and semaglutide (Ozempic and Wegovy), have expanded their therapeutic repertoire in recent years. Wegovy aids in weight loss and maintenance of weight control when used in conjunction with diet and exercise. Due to the nature of Wegovy, it only has a few licensed indications, it should only be used in patients wanting to lose weight who have:
- a BMI of 30 kg/m² or greater or
- a BMI of at least 27 kg/m² but less than 30 kg/m² who have weight-related health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal levels of fats in the blood, or a history of cardiovascular issues
While many other metabolic pathways are still responsive to insulin, obesity and overweight are linked to resistance to insulin’s ability to lower plasma glucose. Through its receptor, the incretin GLP-1 promotes the survival of beta cells and prevents their apoptosis. People who are obese or overweight do not have higher plasma concentrations of GLP-1 analogues; in fact, those who are severely obese have lower plasma concentrations of GLP-1 analogues. However, the insulin response to nutrient ingestion is elevated in these individuals, indicating that, similar to with glucose and non-esterified fatty acids, the beta cell may become more receptive to the effects of GLP-1 receptor agonists to modulate insulin secretion. Liraglutide and semaglutide are GLP-1 receptor agonists that increase postprandial insulin secretion, decrease glucagon secretion, delay gastric emptying, and promote weight loss by reducing hunger and subsequent food intake. Additionally, it can make patients feel more satisfied and less tempted by food.
How Does Wegovy Work?
The active component in Wegovy belongs to a group of chemical substances known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RA). The biological effects of these substances can contribute to weight loss in a number of ways.
Medical research has demonstrated the effects of GLP-1RAs in lowering hunger, delaying the emptying of the stomach, and enhancing feelings of fullness after meals.
Weight loss was noted in early research as a beneficial side effect for obese and overweight patients, even though this class of medications was initially developed for the treatment of diabetes.
According to the study mentioned above, the active ingredient in Wegovy can stimulate specific neurons (POMC/CART) and inhibit specific peptides (neuropeptide Y), increasing measures of satiation and decreasing hunger.
Pros And Cons Of Wegovy
- Works well to help you lose weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise
- Taken once a week
- Can be used long term compared to other weight loss medications
- Needs to be injected
- Can cause stomach-related side effects
- Can’t take with other medications containing semaglutide or other GLP-1 agonists
- Only available as a brand medication, so it can be expensive
The FDA label for the medication states that Wegovy patients typically start at a low once-weekly dose of 0.25 milligrams (mg) and gradually increase their dosage every 4 weeks until they reach the maximum dose of 2.4 mg per week.
According to the FDA label for the medication, wegovy dosage can be given either with or without food.
While the drug’s manufacturer has provided this as general information, a patient’s doctor may have different dosing recommendations.
Side Effects Of Wegovy
The majority of side effects involved the digestive system.
Other common side effects associated with Wegovy (semaglutide) use (and their percentages in clinical trials) include:
- Nausea (44%)
- Diarrhea (30%)
- Vomiting (24%)
- Constipation (24%)
- Stomach pain (20%)
- Headache (14%)
- Fatigue (11%)
- Heartburn (9%)
- Dizziness (8%)
- Stomach bloating (7%)
- Burping/flatulence (7%)
- Low blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes (6%)
- Gas (6%)
- Gastroenteritis (6%)
- Acid reflux (5%)
- Stomach irritation (4%)
- Viral gastroenteritis (4%)
- Hair loss (3%)
5.8% of Wegovy-treated patients and 11.6% of placebo-treated patients in the STEPS clinical trials stopped their medication due to side effects.
More serious side effects that you should report to your doctor or health care professional as soon as possible include:
- Allergic reactions like skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
- Vision changes
- Fast heartbeat
- Gallbladder problems
- Low blood sugar levels
- A lump or swelling in the neck
- Suicidal thoughts and depression
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble swallowing
Wegovy users suggest the following to decrease gastrointestinal side effects:
- Avoid sugary drinks
- Avoid overeating
- Walk a lot to increase GI motility and help prevent constipation
- Drink plenty of water
- Reduce or stop alcohol use
- Reduce carbohydrates
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals
- Choose bland foods
- Eat slower and chew food thoroughly
Many users claim that side effects subsided as they kept taking Wegovy. Others, however, claimed they had to return to a lower dose to minimize side effects.
The price varies depending on health insurance coverage, so unlike many prescription drugs, there is no set price listed on the manufacturer’s website. The drug’s manufacturer, Novocare, offers a resource page where patients can enter their insurance details and find out how much Wegovy will cost.
For patients in the United States, the cost of Wegovy without insurance is fairly high. At the time this article was updated, GoodRx reported an average retail price of $1,564.70.
Wegovy was only recently (2021) approved, so there are currently no FDA-approved generic alternatives, at least not for patients in the United States. In order to recover the costs of the drug’s development and marketing, pharmaceutical companies typically receive exclusive market access for 10+ years after a medication is approved.
Wegovy Vs. Ozempic
Whether Wegovy or Ozempic is more effective for weight loss is a common patient question.
The same active component, semaglutide, is present in both Wegovy and Ozempic. Obesity is treated with Wegovy, and type-2 diabetes is treated with Ozempic. Both medicines are injectable, although Wegovy has a higher dose of semaglutide.
Because semaglutide has been shown in scientific research to have a dose-dependent effect, Wegovy is probably more effective for weight loss. This implies that the drug is more effective at higher doses (up to a certain point).
Wegovy is likely to be more effective for weight loss than Ozempic because it contains a higher dose of semaglutide. Wegovy is also approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss, while Ozempic is not.
Wegovy is not FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes, despite the fact that it has been shown in some studies to have a blood-sugar-lowering effect, so we advise patients to talk to their doctor about Ozempic instead.
Wegovy Vs. Saxenda
Another injectable weight-loss drug that has FDA approval is Saxenda. Our most recent article on Saxenda weight loss reviews looked at the scientific evidence supporting this medication.
It is not surprising that the active ingredients in both medications have comparable safety and efficacy profiles when their clinical outcomes are compared (liraglutide vs. semaglutide).
One meta-study examined the two drugs head-to-head and found that the active ingredient in Compared to Saxenda’s active component, Wegovy was more effective at helping people lose weight. It should not be inferred from these results that Wegovy is superior because the doses examined in this study were lower than the doses in both Wegovy and Saxenda.
We need more research to confirm that Wegovy is, in fact, marginally more effective. As of right now, we advise patients to consider one of these two medications to compare their prices because there are currently no factors that clearly distinguish between their efficacy and safety.
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Risks And Warnings For Wegovy
Serious health problems may be brought on by wegovy (semaglutide). Some groups may be at an even greater risk than others. If this worries you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about other options
Wegovy (semaglutide) has caused thyroid cancer in rats. When they received higher doses of Wegovy (semaglutide) or took the drug for a longer amount of time, this was more likely to occur. Wegovy (semaglutide) may increase the risk of thyroid cancer in humans, but this is unknown. Wegovy (semaglutide) shouldn’t be used by those who have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or those who have MEN 2 due to this potential risk. Notify your healthcare provider right away if you experience hoarseness that doesn’t go away, a lump in your neck, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, or any other of these symptoms. These could be thyroid cancer symptoms.
Inflammation Of The Pancreas (pancreatitis)
Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, can be brought on by Wegovy (semaglutide). Pancreas damage, bleeding, or even death could result from this. You should stop taking Wegovy (semaglutide) and notify your provider right away if you experience nausea or severe abdominal pain that radiates to your back and doesn’t go away.
Low Blood Sugar
You can lower your blood sugar levels by using Wegovy (semaglutide). You can further reduce your blood sugar levels by combining Wegovy (semaglutide) with other diabetes medications like insulin or glipizide (Glucotrol). If you have type 2 diabetes, check your blood sugar levels at home before beginning treatment with Wegovy (semaglutide), and keep checking them while you’re taking the drug. Inform your doctor that you are taking Wegovy (semaglutide) if you are also taking insulin or other diabetes medications. To reduce your risk of low blood sugar, your doctor may reduce the dosage of your diabetes medication.
Dangerously low blood sugar is defined as less than 54 mg/dL. A loss of consciousness or death are just two serious side effects of dangerously low blood sugar. Sweating more than usual, trembling, a racing heart, changes in vision, weakness, and confusion are all symptoms of low blood sugar. It’s critical that you and those close to you understand how to spot and handle low blood sugar. Call 911 right away if these symptoms persist despite initial treatment or if your caretaker observes that you are unconscious.
Gallstone development and inflammation are two issues that wegovy (semaglutide) can contribute to. Gallbladder issues can arise even in the absence of these risk factors, such as when you lose a lot of weight quickly. Inform your doctor as soon as possible if you experience dark urine, yellowing of the skin or eyes, nausea, vomiting, a fever, chills, or excruciating pain in your upper right stomach.
Wegovy (semaglutide) may harm the kidneys or exacerbate pre-existing kidney failure, necessitating dialysis. It can occur in people without any known kidney diseases, but those who have kidney damage are more at risk. If you experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, inform your healthcare provider. Your risk of dehydration, which can result in kidney damage, is increased by these side effects. In order to ensure that your kidneys are in good shape while you are taking Wegovy (semaglutide), your doctor may ask you to have blood tests performed if you have kidney disease or if you experience these side effects.
Eye Problems In People With Type 2 Diabetes (diabetic Retinopathy)
Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy, can harm the retina and cause cataracts and glaucoma in people with type 2 diabetes and a high risk of heart disease. People who already have diabetic retinopathy, which is an eye condition brought on by high blood sugar levels, are at higher risk. Following a sharp decline in blood sugar levels, these eye problems could momentarily get worse. While taking Wegovy (semaglutide), let your doctor know if your eye issues worsen or if you notice any changes in your vision.
Increase In Heart Rate
Your resting heart rate may go up if you take Wegovy (semaglutide). The medication caused some users’ heart rates to increase by 1 to 4 beats per minute (bpm), while others saw increases of 10 to 20 bpm or more. While you are taking semaglutide-containing medication Wegovy, your healthcare provider will frequently check your heart rate. If you experience racing heart while at rest, tell your healthcare provider. Stop taking the medication if your heart rate doesn’t return to normal.
Suicidal Thoughts And Actions
Other weight loss medications have caused suicidal thoughts and actions in some users. Wegovy (semaglutide) should not be taken by anyone with a history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts. If you notice any unusual changes in mood or behavior, or if your depression symptoms are getting worse, let your doctor know. If you experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors, stop taking Wegovy (semaglutide).
Does Wegovy Really Work?
Wegovy’s efficacy is backed up by the outcomes of clinical trials and patient testimonials. Analogues of GLP-1, such as Wegovy, bind to brain receptors to lessen cravings and hunger. Additionally, they bind to stomach receptors to delay stomach emptying and digestion. Slowing down the emptying of the stomach prolongs the feeling of satiety, but in some people it can lead to heartburn, gas, nausea, and constipation. Additionally, GLP-1 binds to pancreatic receptors. Because of this, the pancreas releases insulin, causing blood sugar levels to drop. Only about 90 seconds of natural GLP-1 are stored in the body. Synthetic GLP-1s can continue to reduce your appetite for a week.
According to medical research, Wegovy is effective for weight loss, but a sizable proportion of patients appear to experience side effects.
Your body has time to adjust to the medication thanks to an escalating dose. gastrointestinal issues are the most frequent side effects. About 5% to 6% of people need to stop taking Wegovy due to side effects, while some experience only minor side effects, others can be managed with dietary or lifestyle changes, and the remaining individuals must stop taking Wegovy altogether. Less frequently than with other weight-loss drugs, the side effects do occur.
We advise patients to use the Wegovy pricing page to determine their subsidized cost because the price of Wegovy differs significantly depending on whether they have health insurance or not.