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Ozempic = Phen-Fen Part II?

Here in America, we have Semagultide-fever (aka brand names Ozempic, Wegovy, Rybelsus). The popular diabetes medicine that has been proven to help folks lose weight has sent everyone running to their doctor for a prescription. It’s so popular it’s actually affecting the Danish economy and virtual clinics are popping up online for a quick and easy prescription.

So, what is Semagultide? It’s a medicine for type-2 diabetes that is now being prescribed for weight management. It can be injected or taken orally. It’s sometimes prescribed with tirzepatide (brand name Mounjaro) which is also a type 2 diabetes medicine that has some overlapping action.

The reason these medicines are so popular is that in 2021 a randomized, double-blind trial was conducted of over 1,961 individuals with a body mass index of 30 or greater. The trials occurred across the globe and after 68 weeks, those in the Semagultide group had lost almost 15 percent of their bodyweight vs. the placebo group which had lost just 2.5 percent.

I’m not a medical professional, so my opinions are just my own, but I’m okay with folks who are morbidly obese doing whatever it takes to get the weight off. With that being said, the studies that have occurred so far, have shown that when people stop taking the Semagultide, they gain back 2/3rd of the weight they lost.

It runs into the same problem as most “easy fixes” (bariatric surgery, drugs, etc.) you can lose the weight, but without the lifestyle changes, it just comes back. I used to work in a hospital that was a Bariatric Center of Excellence, so we saw hundreds of bariatric patients and the success rate was far less than what you’d expect, and the complications were scary and frequent.

A few years ago, I was writing a few posts on random 90’s fitness fads and I wrote one on Phen-Fed. After reading The Verge’s recent article about the online startups that offer quick access to Ozempic without even seeing a doctor, I was reminded of an article I had read about Phen-Fen and all the pop-up clinics that occurred in the 90s.

Similar to the online clinics, the weight loss clinics in the 90’s worked in a very similar format. A healthcare provider offered prescriptions at a large cost without truly offering a proper exam or viewing of a person’s medical history. These clinics made a ton of money, and then one day, people took notice that Phen-Fen (fenfluramine/phentermine) led to fatal pulmonary hypertension and heart value problems. Lawsuits were filed and today it’s a mere footnote in the history of weight loss fads.

Now, I’m not saying Ozempic, and the similar drugs are going to be the next Phen-Fen, I’m nowhere near qualified to even make a guess like that, but I will say it does look like history is repeating itself. There’s a mad rush to the product and it seems to be prescribed haphazardly and prematurely in some cases. Just this week, I had a friend get prescribed Ozempic and Mounjaro after a diabetes diagnosis along with a slew of other medicines. The doctor even told him, taking so many prescriptions was going to make him lethargic, so he’s not planning on changing up the diet or working out outside of cutting out soda. This seems like such a terrible way to practice medicine, but again, what do I know?

I was encouraged to share my thoughts on Ozempic this week, after reading The Verge article, hearing my friend talk about being prescribed the drug, and then I had a bit of a shock on Instagram. Yeah, the same Instagram I was complaining about a few weeks ago.

As I mentioned in that post, I originally joined Instagram in hunt for a weight loss community. I was looking to find some encouragement and a way to keep my focus on eating better and working out. Sadly, most of what I found were influencers and folks selling stuff. I did, however, find a couple of people that logged their workouts via Instagram, and I liked that.

When I closed out that particular Instagram account, I lost those folks I followed, and it didn’t seem like a big deal. But a few months ago, I was eager to find a couple of people who were losing weight and doing the hard work, just to interrupt the sea of ads, celebrities, and movie content that seems to fill my Instagram feed. I found two young ladies, who had lost some significant weight over the past year and seemed to be working hard. It wasn’t a perfect follow for me, but at least it reminded me I wasn’t alone out trying to get into shape.

Well… you know where this is going. Yesterday, they both came out that they were on Ozempic and Monjaro and the illusion was just shattered for me. These women weren’t morbidly obese when they started and well… I guess I felt cheated that they had been passing off this “story” that they were working out, eating right, and losing weight all on their own. Maybe it shouldn’t irritate me, but I felt duped, they both got a quick unfollow and I’ve kicked myself for being so naive.

Nobody knows what the future holds for Semagultides like Ozempic. Will it become even more common and help fight the “obesity epidemic?” Will we find out in a few years it’s killing folks? Will it just be another footnote, not too unlike Phen-Fen, The Zone Diet, or Atkins in the history of weight-loss fads? I guess we will all just wait and see. Until then, I’m going to cut my calories and pick up heavy things and put them down.
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