For two months Kerry Yazid took Ozempic, the drug worked as intended. Yazid has type 2 diabetes, and weekly injections have lowered his blood sugar levels. But it also brought side effects including vomiting, fatigue. Headaches and stomach cramps that he found unbearable.
Five weeks after taking the medication, Yazid said. He was unable to move himself off the bathroom floor.
“I vomited so much I didn’t have the energy to get up and I was basically laying on it,” she said. “I couldn’t even lift my head to vomit on the commode. It was so bad.”
The serious side effects Yazid faced are not common. But people’s experiences of taking Ozempic and its sister drug, Wegovi. Can vary widely — from significant weight loss. And minimal discomfort at one end of the spectrum to extreme effects at the other.
NBC News spoke with 10 people about their experiences taking these blockbuster drugs. Both forms of semaglutide. They are designed to mimic a hormone that signals the brain when a person is full. And stimulate the release of insulin, a hormone that stops blood sugar from getting too high. Instead, medications can lower blood sugar levels and suppress appetite.
They’ve grown in popularity over the past year, in part due to social media attention. And the weight-loss effects of billionaires like Elon Musk.
Prescriptions for Ozempic tripled from 2021 to 2022, accordin. To data from prescription drug discount company SingleCare. Which has more than 5 million members. Last year, drug shortages occurred due to high demand and global supply constraints. The FDA reported a Wegovi shortage in March 2022, followed by an Ozempic shortage in August.
Several people interviewed said that the benefits they received from the drugs outweighed the side effects.
“It makes it feel lighter to move around. My clothes fit a lot better and more comfortably,” says Stacey Bollinger. An account director in Maryland, who reported losing 52 pounds since starting Wegovy. “Something as simple as tying my shoelaces is so easy.”
Some people say they feel better on the drug. But Yazid and several others described side effects that forced them. To stop taking the drugs or question whether they could stay on them long-term.
Obesity medicine experts who have prescribed Ozempic and Wegovi. Say the drugs can change patients’ lives and health. The effects of weight loss enable patients to do activities they could not do befor.
Such as chasing after the grandchildren or finding appropriate clothing in mainstream stores. Semaglutide may also address health problems associated with obesity and diabetes. Such as a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
“By treating obesity, you’re effectively treating potentially. More than 200 obesity-related or weight-related diseases. Said Dr. Anya Jastreboff, associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine. Jastreboff serves on the scientific advisory board of Novo Nordisk. Which manufactures Ozempic and Wegovi.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Ozempic in 2017 for people with type 2 diabetes. Followed by Wegovi — the same drug, which goes up in higher doses — in 2021 for weight loss in adults with obesity or who.
Are overweight and have at least one weight-related health condition. Such as High blood pressure or cholesterol. Ozempic is not approved for weight loss, but doctors sometimes prescribe it off-label for that purpose.
Most people who took Ozempic or Wegovi said it curbed their appetite and reduced cravings for unhealthy foods. Seattle-area software developers Bollinger and Randy Lee Harper each lost more than 50 pounds.
Harper took Ozympic off-label to lose weight from May to November (he took a break when he went to Washington state but plans to start again). She said she still enjoyed her favorite foods — like truffle mac n’ cheese and Sour Patch Kids candy — but her portions were smaller.
“You don’t realize how much your life is centered around. Food when you’re overweight until you’re on a diet that doesn’t let you think about it as much as Ozempic,” Harper said.
For the most part, he added, he responded well to the medication, though sometimes. He would get a rash if he ate too much — a fairly common side effect.
As for Bollinger, she said that in addition to her weight loss, her average blood sugar levels. Have dropped to a point where she is no longer pre-diabetic.
A study of more than 1,000 people with type 2 diabetes found that semaglutide was more effective than insulin at lowering blood sugar. Participants did not see the results. Of other antidiabetic drugs, which they continued to take during the trial. About 2,000 overweight or obese adults without diabetes