In June 2021, the Food & Drug Administration approved Wegovy (generic name: Semaglutide) for chronic weight management—making it the most effective medication of its kind to hit the market in decades. Administered using a simple pen that injects the medication underneath the skin, Wegovy mimics the hormone known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is a substance that affects the areas of the brain that help regulate food intake and appetite.
Since its approval, however, getting Wegovy into the hands of patients has been extremely difficult both here at True You Weight Loss and across the country. This is due to a combination of factors including manufacturing issues and an incredibly high demand for the medication.
“In our practice alone, we have hundreds of patients waiting to start taking Wegovy,” explains Dr. Christopher McGowan, Founder and Medical Director of True You Weight Loss. “Many other patients have had to either stop taking the medication, switch doses, or move to interim therapies amidst the shortage. This medication is an extremely effective tool in the fight against obesity. As a result, the shortages have had a real and lasting impact on our patients, so we’re very eager to see a resolution in the coming months.”
Is the Wegovy Shortage Finally Ending?
Fortunately, as of today (December 28, 2022) Wegovy manufacturer Novo Nordisk has confirmed that all dose strengths of Wegovy are now available to retail pharmacies nationwide—giving many patients hope of finally getting access to the medication in 2023. The manufacturer warned that pharmacies may experience normal delays “given the time required to order the product from their local distribution center, and geographical variabilities.”
“Based on recent communication with our Novo Nordisk sales representative as of just this month, we have every reason to hope that we’ll be able to resume our comprehensive True You Rx program for patients who are eligible for Wegovy in early 2023,” explains Dr. McGowan.
It’s important to note that Wegovy is intended to be taken indefinitely, similar to other medications for chronic health conditions such as high cholesterol or diabetes. Dr. McGowan and his team remind patients that in clinical trials, patients who stopped taking Wegovy often regained most or all of the weight that had been lost.
“As obesity medicine physicians, having access to these effective medications is incredibly important in helping our patients improve their health and quality of life. I’m thrilled to see the medical community finally start acknowledging obesity as a chronic disease, rather than a problem of choice or willpower.”
While it’s difficult to know when the medication will become widely available at retail pharmacies, we’re hopeful that we can begin prescribing Wegovy again by January 2023 for eligible patients.
What is Wegovy?
Wegovy is the same medication as a previously approved antidiabetic drug called Ozempic. However, Wegovy is indicated and prescribed specifically for weight management. On the other hand, only patients with diabetes can or will be prescribed Ozempic. Both drugs have several key functions:
- improves the secretion of insulin by the pancreas
- encourages smaller meal size and extends a feeling of fullness due to the stomach emptying more slowly
- reduces blood sugar by limiting glucose production in the liver
- slows down intestinal motility
- reduces hunger through effects on the appetite centers in the brain
Because of the potential for gastrointestinal side effects, the dose is increased gradually over a period of 16 to 20 weeks to a full dose of 2.4 mg once a week. Wegovy isn’t meant to be combined with other weight loss medications or other products that contain semaglutide.
Who is Eligible for Wegovy?
Wegovy is intended for obese or overweight patients who have a BMI of 30 or higher—or a BMI of 27 or higher with an additional obesity-related health problem (such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol).
Common Side Effects of Wegovy
The prolonged dosage increase and the use of subcutaneous injection are aimed at helping the body slowly adjust to the medication, but there are some possible side effects. The impact on bowel motility in particular can have adverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract; nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, or indigestion are some of the more common side effects. People with type 2 diabetes may even experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) due to the drug’s effect on insulin production.
How Much Weight Do Patients Lose on Wegovy?
In one of the most successful trials, participants had an average initial body weight of 231 pounds and a BMI of 38. People who received Wegovy lost an average of 14.9% of their initial body weight (a loss of about 33 pounds) during the 68-week trial. Those who received a placebo lost only 2.4% of their body weight. Due to its impact on both weight loss and blood sugar control, Wegovy is also still especially effective for people with type 2 diabetes.
About True You Rx
True You Weight Loss recommends losing weight with Wegovy as part of a comprehensive weight management program to include a physical fitness regimen, dietary support, and healthy eating habits. Our True You Rx program begins with an initial medication consultation to review your medical history, discuss your weight loss goals, and determine if Wegovy is an appropriate treatment for you, along with an initial nutrition consultation. If approved, you will meet with a health coach on a monthly basis, and will receive ongoing medication support from your physician. Your Wegovy prescription will be refilled on a monthly basis at your local pharmacy.