A significant study released on Thursday found that weight-loss medications like Ozempic increase the chance of some serious gastrointestinal issues, including stomach paralysis.
The study, which was released in the JAMA journal, examined a class of medications known as GLP-1 agonists, which includes the product brands Wegovy, Ozempic, Rybelsus, and Saxenda.
The incidence of severe adverse effects was then compared to that of another kind of weight-loss medication, bupropion-naltrexone.
The risks of stomach paralysis, pancreatitis, and intestinal blockage were all nearly four times higher while using GLP-1 agonists, as well as nine times higher.
Depending on how severe they are, some illnesses may necessitate hospitalization and surgery. Lead author Mohit Sodhi, a medical student at the University of British Columbia in Canada, said in a statement: “Given the widespread use of these drugs, these adverse events, although rare, must be considered by patients thinking about using them for weight loss.”
Whether a patient is using these medications to treat diabetes, obesity, or just general weight loss, “the risk calculus will differ,” he continued. People who are otherwise healthy might be less receptive to these potentially harmful side effects.
GLP-1 agonists, which were initially created to treat Type 2 diabetes, have had a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years as a way to shed pounds, primarily through “off-label” use.
Saxenda and Wegovy were licensed for weight loss in 2020 and 2021, respectively; however, the clinical trials that led to their approval included too few participants and had too little follow-up time to pick up on extremely rare occurrences, according to the researchers.
The current study, according to co-author and epidemiologist Mahyar Etminan, was the first to look into the issue on a larger scale, despite anecdotal reports of some patients using these drugs for weight loss and then experiencing repeated episodes of nausea and vomiting due to stomach paralysis.
The scientists combed through US patient records looking for persons who were prescribed either bupropion or naltrexone, a non-GLP-1 weight loss drug, or liraglutide or semaglutide, the two primary GLP-1 agonists, to determine how many went on to develop certain gastrointestinal disorders.
Patients with a recent history of obesity were included in their analysis, but those with diabetes or those who had previously taken another antidiabetic medication were not.
The total number of records used in the analysis was just over 5,400. “The results from this study highlight how important it is that patients access these drugs only through trusted medical professionals and only with ongoing support and monitoring,” said Simon Cork, a senior lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University who was not involved in the study.
To guarantee that these drugs are only prescribed in the appropriate situations, it is crucial that regulation be reinforced.