Physician Molly Thompson, the director at the Family Medicine Residency Center at Pullman Regional Hospital, has noted a significant increase in patients inquiring about weight-loss medications such as Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus. This surge in interest is partially attributed to heightened awareness from social media. Although these medications, known as “GLP-1 agonists,” were originally designed for treating Type 2 Diabetes, the FDA approved Semaglutide, the active ingredient in these drugs, for obesity treatment in 2021.
Patients are increasingly proactive about discussing these medications, and Thompson estimates discussing them with three to five patients daily. The drugs function by mimicking a hormone that helps diabetics and people with obesity. They stimulate insulin release from the pancreas and slow down digestion, making individuals feel full sooner and for longer durations. While the use of these drugs for weight loss has faced scrutiny, Thompson emphasizes that obesity is a medical diagnosis with associated health risks, making it worthy of treatment.
However, Semaglutide drugs have notable side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, leading some patients to discontinue use. Thompson acknowledges lifestyle modifications, such as exercise and diet, as the primary treatment options but does not rule out medication when necessary. Challenges arise due to the drugs’ popularity, leading to difficulties in pharmacy prescription fulfillment, and insurance companies often refuse coverage for patients without Type 2 Diabetes.
Pharmacies’ struggles to meet the demand have created shortages, and Thompson recounts a case where a patient was unable to fill an Ozempic prescription due to these shortages. Addressing these challenges becomes complicated when deciding whether to prioritize diabetic patients or those seeking treatment for obesity. Furthermore, insurance companies’ reluctance to cover the drugs for non-diabetic patients adds another layer of difficulty. Online retailers advertising these medications without medical requirements pose additional concerns, as patients may not receive proper monitoring and consultation from a healthcare professional. Thompson stresses the importance of having a doctor supervise the medication’s progress, as well as discourages individuals from seeking medication solely for shedding a few extra pounds, emphasizing that these drugs are not intended for short-term, cosmetic weight loss.