Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s) and published for informational purposes only. We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to prescription medication.
OOzempic is a prescription injectable medication for adults with type 2 diabetes. It’s one of the most popular diabetes medications prescribed in the U.S. Ozempic is the brand name version of the drug, and the generic version is called semaglutide. We will use these names interchangeably throughout this article as they refer to the same active compound.
In this article we’ll review the medical research on Ozempic to determine how it works and whether it’s likely to be effective for diabetes and weight loss. We’ll also overview some side effects of the drug, dosage information, and explain foods you may wish to avoid while taking Ozempic.
Does Ozempic Work for Diabetes?
As noted in the intro, Ozempic is primarily a diabetes drug. This is the only condition that’s approved to treat by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S.
A meta-study published in the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism journal analyzed data from 7 individual trials on Ozempic to treat type 2 diabetes. The researchers noted that Ozempic reduced HbA1c (a marker of blood sugar) by 1.01% and 1.38% at the lower doses of the drug. This was found to be a statistically significant reduction.
A separate medical trial published in 2018 found that Ozempic reduced blood sugar spike after a meal in obese patients, and improved insulin sensitivity.
A more recent medical review that was even more comprehensive analyzed the efficacy of Ozempic for treating type 2 diabetes. The study authors analyzed data from 9,980 patients and concluded that the drug “can safely and effectively reduce blood glucose.”
We can conclude from the available data that Ozempic is effective for treating diabetes, which is unsurprising given that it was approved by the FDA for this purpose, which requires significant clinical backing.
Does Ozempic Cause Weight Loss?
One of the most common questions that patients have about Ozempic is whether it can influence weight loss. Ozempic’s website has conflicting information on this topic which could be confusing to a patient. The brand states that “Ozempic may help you lose some weight,” but then in the next line states “Ozempic is not for weight loss.”
The reason the brand has to be cautious about their wording here is that Ozempic is not approved by the FDA for weight loss, so the drug manufacturer cannot claim the product is effective for weight loss even if there is some medical research suggesting it may be.
A medical review published in 2022 examined whether Ozempic was effective for inducing weight loss. The researchers found some surprising results.
One study found that Ozempic at 0.5 milligrams (mg) caused an average body weight reduction of 3.73 kilograms (kg) over 30 weeks, which equates to 8.22 pounds (lbs). 37% of patients at this dose lost over 5% of their total body weight over the 30 week trial.
The same study found that Ozempic at 1 mg caused an average body weight reduction of 4.53 kg over 30 weeks, which equates to 9.99 lb. 45% of patients at this dose lost over 5% of their body weight over the 30 week trial.
A medical review published in the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism journal elucidated why Ozempic may be effective for weight loss. The drug reduced hunger and food cravings, and caused a reduced preference for high-fat foods. This may be due to the effect that normalizing insulin levels has on reducing food cravings.
Another interesting thing to note on the topic of Ozempic and weight loss is that Ozempic is the same active drug (semaglutide) that is approved by the FDA for weight loss at a higher dose. Wegovy is a semaglutide prescription drug, but its dose is 2.4 mg while the highest available dose of Ozempic is 2 mg.
All of the available research suggests that Ozempic may be effective for weight loss in overweight and obese patients, however we don’t recommend that patients take the drug for that purpose alone as it’s not approved by the FDA for weight loss.
If weight loss is the goal, we recommend that patients speak with their doctor instead about Wegovy which is approved for weight loss and uses the same active ingredient but at a higher dose.
Ozempic Side Effects
The side effects of Ozempic are well-documented. In fact, there is an entire medical review just on the side effects of Ozempic.
The most common side effect of Ozempic is nausea, occurring in upwards of 20% of patients. Vomiting occurred in a range of 4% to 11.5% of patients, and diarrhea occurred in 4.5% to 11.3% of patients. Older patients with other medical conditions were noted to experience these side effects more than average.
The more concerning potential side effect of Ozempic is that of thyroid tumors. The medication carries a “black box warning” on its FDA label, which is the highest level of patient warning which indicates a side effect that may cause serious safety risks.
Ozempic’s black box warning notes that in rodents the drug causes thyroid C-cell tumors. For this reason it’s contraindicated for patients with a family history of some thyroid conditions. We recommend that patients speak with their doctor about these risks prior to taking the drug.
How Does Ozempic Work?
Ozempic is a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1RA). This class of compounds is effective for diabetes because it can help the body regulate levels of glucose.
According to medical research, GLP-1RA drugs may inhibit the release of a hormone called glucagon which is commonly elevated in type 2 diabetics. This hormone signals to the body to increase blood sugar levels, so by inhibiting its effect blood sugar levels may drop.
For weight loss, Ozempic may be effective because of its effects on hunger and satiation as we reviewed in the previous section. The drug also delays gastric emptying which causes patients to feel full longer.
Do I Need to Avoid Certain Foods on Ozempic?
There’s a common patient misconception that there are specific foods which cannot be eaten on Ozempic. That is not true and there is no information in the FDA label on this drug about specific foods that need to be avoided.
That being said, because Ozempic is a type 2 diabetes medication it seems logical to avoid processed foods with a high glycemic index that are likely to cause blood sugar spikes and potentially worsen diabetes. Avoiding foods like chips, cakes, cookies and candy may make Ozempic more effective.
Ozempic’s website even has a healthy eating section where they recommend different plant-based meals which are rich in nutrition.
The recommendation to eat high-fiber, unprocessed foods makes even more sense for patients who are hoping for a secondary benefit of weight loss while taking the drug. Eating high-calorie, processed foods would be counterintuitive to weight loss.
Ozempic is available at three different once-weekly doses, according to their website: 0.5 mg, 1 mg and 2 mg. Higher doses are generally associated with increased efficacy and increased side effects.
In the medical reviews we highlighted in the weight loss section of this article, higher Ozempic doses were also associated with increased weight loss.
Doctors often start patients on a lower dose of the medication to establish tolerability, and then increase dose as needed. We recommend that patients speak with their doctor about what an appropriate Ozempic dose is based on their individual medical situation.
Ozempic Weight Loss Before and After
Although Ozempic is not prescribed for weight loss, many patients are often curious about seeing before-and-after images of another patient who was prescribed Ozempic and experienced weight loss as a secondary effect.
A YouTube creator named “The Hangry Woman” has one of the most popular before-and-after videos highlighting her weight loss on Ozempic after 6 months. She claims to have lost 29 pounds:
Is Ozempic Insulin?
Because insulin is the most commonly-prescribed medication for type 2 diabetes, there is often patient confusion about whether Ozempic is just a new type of insulin.
Ozempic is not insulin but it can help regulate insulin secretion. The way Ozempic works is by regulating the hormones glucagon and insulin to better manage blood sugar.
When patients become type 2 diabetic, their hormone levels often become dysregulated, and Ozempic helps the body normalize these hormone levels which has downstream effects on blood sugar. This is a different mechanism of action than directly injecting with insulin which also reduces blood sugar.
Ozempic Vs. Trulicity
Trulicity is another type 2 diabetes medication which is the brand name for a generic compound called dulaglutide. Both drugs are in the GLP-1RA class of compounds.
A medical trial directly compared the effectiveness of Ozempic and Trulicity for treating type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that at both low and high doses, Ozempic was superior to Trulicity in improving blood sugar levels and also for weight reduction. A greater number of patients on Ozempic hit their blood sugar targets than those on Trulicity.
Based on the available research, we would recommend that patients speak with their doctor about Ozempic rather than Trulicity if they suffer from type 2 diabetes.
What Is The Ozempic Copay Card?
Ozempic offers a copay card accessible through their website that can help patients save money on the medication. The Ozempic savings page on the manufacturer website allows patients to text the brand to receive their card.
The copay card advertises online that patients can pay as little as $25 for a 1-month, 2-month or 3-month supply for up to 24 months.
The resource page also has a co-pay lookup tool that allows patients to find their co-pay cost in advance, which can help for financial planning.
Ozempic User Reviews
One of the most useful tools for analyzing user reviews of pharmaceutical medications is Drugs.com. Their Ozempic user reviews resource features reviews from over 500 people at the time of writing.
For type 2 diabetes, users have rated Ozempic 5.7/10.
The top-rated positive review of Ozempic comes from a reviewer named “Zell” who claims the drug helped them lose weight:
“What a miracle! 9 months later and I’m down 40 lbs”
The top-rated negative review is written by a user named “Stingie” who reported negative side effects after taking the drug:
“I did one injection and have been ill since. Have had acid reflux, burping, vomiting, constipation, headache and dizziness.”
Should I Take Ozempic Generic?
As referenced throughout this article, the generic form of Ozempic is called semaglutide. These two names refer to the exact same active compound; Ozempic is just the branded version.
Medical research shows that brand-name and generic drugs have similar efficacy, which logically follows since they have the same active ingredient.
We typically recommend that patients speak with their doctor about the generic version of a drug rather than the brand-name version, since the latter costs more and may provide no additional health benefit.
In Ozempic’s case, it’s unclear if generic semaglutide injections are available yet, but we recommend that patients speak with their doctor about this.