Ozempic: From Diabetes Treatment to Weight Management and Beyond - Exploring the Unconventional Popularity of a Versatile Medication
Ozempic has become a household name for various reasons, and its widespread popularity has taken my country by storm. If you're curious about the extent of a drug's popularity, you needn't look any further than the presence of counterfeits in stores. Notably, the Food and Drug Agency in my country has raised concerns about a particular batch of this brand, suspecting it to be counterfeit.
From Celebrities to Influencers, Presenters, and even in the news, Ozempic is everywhere and it is surprising that its main function is to treat Type-2 Diabetes. It is the brand name for the drug Semaglutide which helps to regulate blood sugar levels by imitating the Hormone Glucagon-like-peptide 1 (GLP-1) that is produced in the gut. Why the popularity of the drug with everyone since not everyone is suffering from Type-2 Diabetes?
To understand this phenomenon, let's take a journey back to the early 1990s when researchers in the UK conducted clinical trials on a drug called Sildenafil. Initially intended to treat chest pain, Sildenafil displayed limited promise for its intended purpose. However, it possessed a side effect that would change its course, leading to FDA approval under the brand name Viagra. Many drugs have been repurposed due to unexpected side effects or mechanisms that affect other parts of the body. In recent times, Semaglutide, known as Ozempic and Wegovy, is following a similar trajectory.
In 2017, the FDA approved Ozempic as a drug to treat Type-2 diabetes, and Wegovy was approved in 2021 for chronic weight management. These two brand have the same active compounds at different doses. The approval of semaglutide for weight management changed the entire demand of the drug. People who needed Ozempic to treat diabetes didn't have access to the drug again as there was a high demand. I will get back to the weight management soon but let's discuss another thing that people have been reporting.
People have reported that taking Ozempic leads to a reduced inclination toward alcohol and other substances. This effect is feasible because Semaglutide mimics the GLP-1 hormone released in response to eating, which raises insulin levels and stabilizes blood sugar. These drugs work by binding to receptors in the pancreas, stimulating insulin production and slowing down food digestion in the stomach, promoting a feeling of fullness. This, in turn, reduces appetite and cravings for fatty foods, aiding in weight loss.
The GLP-1 receptor is not limited to the pancreas; it can be found throughout the body, including the brain. In studies involving mice and non-human primates, GLP-1 agonists reduced alcohol consumption and dampened the rewarding effects of alcohol. Similarly, GLP-1 agonists were shown to decrease cocaine consumption and the associated hyperactivity. They also demonstrated a capacity to diminish the rewarding effects of nicotine and nicotine-induced hyperactivity. This suggests that this class of drugs extends beyond diabetes treatment, potentially making addictive substances less appealing by blunting their effects.
However, it's important to note that despite these promising findings, there is no approved medication for treating cocaine or methamphetamine addiction.
Back to weight loss. Feeling full causing people not to eat much, has made Ozempic an off-label medication for weight loss. Diet pills and weight loss medications aren't new, they have been around for decades of years and one of those drugs is dinitrophenol which was used in world war 1 as explosives but then it was noticed that workers who came in contact with it lost weight, it was rebranded as and sold for weight management but overtime, it was regarded as unsafe as it caused blindness, neuropathy and death in high doses.
Additionally, amphetamines like Benzedrine salt were initially sold as decongestants but later employed for weight management. In 1965, the FDA restricted amphetamines to prescription use only, reflecting concerns about their safety. Drugs such as Phentermine and Fenfluramine were once used for weight loss but were associated with significant cardiovascular issues. Orlistat, marketed as Xenical, is another FDA-approved weight management drug that inhibits fat digestion, causing dietary fats to be excreted as oil.
Given this history, it's natural to question the longevity of Ozempic's popularity. Is it a misstep to offer the drug to individuals seeking it for cosmetic purposes rather than to those with diabetes? The broad distribution of this drug certainly raises concerns. For now, I'll remain observant, eager to see the outcomes that unfold over time.