Weight Loss Drugs Like Ozempic Tied to Increased Risk of Severe Stomach Problems

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People with obesity who take popular injected drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy to lose weight may have a higher risk of severe stomach problems than they would have with some other weight loss medications, a new study suggests.

For the study, researchers examined health insurance claims data for about 5,400 people with obesity, but not diabetes, who were prescribed medicines containing semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy; liraglutide, the active ingredient in Saxenda; or Contrave, an older weight loss pill containing a combination of the ingredients bupropion and naltrexone.

Compared with people who took the older pill, individuals who took Ozempic (a type 2 diabetes drug that can be prescribed off label for weight loss) or the obesity drugs Wegovy and Saxenda were more than 9 times as likely to develop pancreatitis, according to study results published in JAMA. Pancreatitis refers to inflammation in the pancreas that can cause severe abdominal pain and often requires surgery. The new injected weight loss medicines were also associated with a more than quadrupled risk of bowel obstruction, and a more than tripled risk of gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis, which can stop food from moving through the intestines.

“Given the wide use of these drugs, these adverse events, although rare, must be considered by patients thinking about using them for weight loss,” lead study author Mohit Sodhi, a medical student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said in a statement. “The risk calculus will differ depending on whether a patient is using these drugs for diabetes, obesity, or just general weight loss. People who are otherwise healthy may be less willing to accept these potentially serious adverse events.”

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