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Most People Don’t Use Popular GLP-1 Drugs Long Enough to See Weight-Loss Effects

Have you ever wondered why some weight-loss medications seem to work wonders for some yet barely make a difference for others? A recent study highlights this issue, particularly with popular GLP-1 drugs like Saxenda and Wegovy. According to research by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which looked into the medical records of 170,000 people from July 2014 to December 2023, a surprising 58% of people didn’t stick with their prescribed 12-week course. Many stopped taking these medications within just a month, far too soon to reach the drug’s full strength and see significant weight loss.

This finding is crucial because it tells us that consistency is vital to unlocking the potential benefits of these treatments. If people discontinue the drugs prematurely, they miss out on the intended health benefits, which can be a game changer for many. Kim Keck, president and CEO of BCBSA, points out that this highlights a more significant issue: the speed at which we’re advancing in medicine often outpaces our understanding of who can truly benefit from these innovations and how to make those benefits last. It’s a reminder that in our quest to manage healthcare costs and improve treatment outcomes, knowing more about these medications and how people use them is vital.

How Do GLP-1 Drugs Work?  

Now, you might be curious about how these GLP-1 drugs actually do their magic. Let’s dive into that, focusing particularly on how Ozempic works for weight loss, even though it was originally intended for a different health concern, which is diabetes. GLP-1 drugs, including Wegovy, Saxenda, and Ozempic, are known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists. This might sound like a mouthful, but their function is fascinating. They mimic a hormone naturally found in your gut that plays a significant role in controlling blood sugar levels. Here’s where it gets interesting for weight loss: by replicating this hormone, these drugs also interact with the brain’s hunger centers, effectively reducing your appetite.

Ozempic, specifically, was first designed to help adults with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels & reduce the risk of heart disease. However, doctors often prescribe it ‘off-label’ for weight loss. This means they use it for a purpose other than what it was officially approved for, based on the results they’ve seen. As for Wegovy, it’s specifically recommended for long-term weight loss alongside exercise and a low-calorie diet. It’s suitable for adults who are classified as overweight or obese with a related health condition and even for children aged 12 and above who are significantly obese. This approach underscores how targeted and strategic the use of these medications can be when they are part of a broader health and lifestyle strategy.

What Are the Side Effects of GLP-1 Drugs?

Understanding the possible side effects of any medication is just as important as knowing how it works. When it comes to GLP-1 drugs, especially when considering something like the side effects Ozempic for weight loss, there are a few things you should be aware of.

A board-certified family medicine physician, Dr. David Cutler, explains that the side effects of these medications, particularly gastrointestinal ones like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation, can be quite severe. In fact, they’re serious enough that some people decide to stop taking the drug altogether. Although rare, there’s also a risk of pancreatitis—a serious condition that can prompt patients to discontinue use as a precaution.

Furthermore, when GLP-1 drugs are used with other diabetes drugs, like insulin or sulfonylureas, they may increase the risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, which is something to watch out for. Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon, adds another perspective. He notes that while a small percentage of patients stop using the drug due to its side effects, those who stick with it often adjust over time. Interestingly, stopping the medication doesn’t generally lead to severe withdrawal effects, but it might cause an increase in hunger, leading to weight regain.

Why Do Most People Stop GLP-1 Drugs Early?

Dr. Mir Ali sheds some light on this, pointing out that often, it boils down to impatience and a lack of understanding about how these medications work. He explains that these drugs require a commitment of three to six months to see optimal results. They begin with a lower dose & gradually increase it. Unfortunately, this slow progression can lead to frustration, especially when people don’t see immediate weight loss. This can be especially disheartening if they are paying a lot out-of-pocket, which is often the case. Sometimes, patients even have to stop the medication if their insurance won’t cover it anymore or if it never did, making it too expensive to continue.

This issue of cost brings us to another point—where to buy these medications. For those considering options like Ozempic for weight loss, looking into different sources for the medication, such as to buy Ozempic from Canada, might offer some cost relief, provided that it aligns with local healthcare regulations and availability. Dr. Ali emphasizes the importance of setting realistic expectations with patients about the medication’s effects and the time frame involved. On top of financial and expectation management issues, Dr. David Cutler adds that the method of administration—weekly injections—can also be a hurdle. The injections, which are typically done into the skin, might be seen as inconvenient or uncomfortable, and the regularity required can disrupt some people’s schedules or lifestyle preferences.

Conclusion

In wrapping up, let’s consider some intriguing findings from a major study by an American insurance company. Over the last decade, more than half of the 170,000 people prescribed Saxenda or Wegovy stopped using these medications prematurely. Both Saxenda and Wegovy are part of a group called GLP-1 drugs, which are increasingly recognized for their potential in aiding weight loss.

However, these medications are not without their challenges. They can cause some harsh side effects early on, which understandably might lead some people to stop taking them before they really start to work. The problem with stopping early is that patients won’t experience the full benefits these drugs can offer, as they need to be taken as prescribed to reach their full potential. This highlights a crucial aspect of weight loss treatments: the need for patience and perseverance. Sticking with the treatment despite initial hurdles can be vital in achieving better health outcomes.

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