Home Health & Wellness Rising Popularity of Ozempic for Cosmetic Weight Loss Sparks Concern among Medical Experts

Rising Popularity of Ozempic for Cosmetic Weight Loss Sparks Concern among Medical Experts

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Ozempic, known for its active ingredient semaglutide, was approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for managing type 2 diabetes mellitus. But its off-label use for cosmetic weight loss has skyrocketed, fuelled by social media and celebrity endorsements. Despite Wegovy, a similar GLP-1 agonist explicitly approved for weight loss, Ozempic dominates public interest, as evidenced by Google Trends data.

A new study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal has delved into the rising trend of Ozempic, a medication initially approved for diabetes treatment, being used off-label for cosmetic weight loss purposes. Utilising Google Trends, researchers investigated the shifting public interest towards Ozempic and similar Glucagon-like Peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists over a five-year period, particularly in the UK.

While Ozempic, the brand name for the GLP-1 agonist semaglutide, has traditionally been used in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus, its off-label application for cosmetic weight loss has soared. The study meticulously tracked the relative search volume (RSV) of Ozempic and compared it with other GLP-1 agonists such as Wegovy and Mounjaro. Notably, since Wegovy’s approval for weight loss by the MHRA in June 2021, Ozempic’s RSV has escalated exponentially, with notable spikes in search interest occurring after December 2021.

This surge in public interest can be attributed to high-profile personalities like Kim Kardashian, Mindy Kaling, and Elon Musk openly discussing their use of Ozempic. Platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have been inundated with posts and discussions around the drug, further propelling its popularity.

The study raises crucial questions about the implications of this trend, both for individuals using Ozempic for weight loss and for the wider healthcare system. There is a growing concern about the off-label use of a medication not originally intended for weight management and the potential risks that may ensue.

One significant consequence of this trend is the strain on the supply of Ozempic, leading to shortages and impacting patients who rely on the drug to manage their type 2 diabetes. The high cost of Ozempic, especially without insurance coverage, has pushed some individuals to seek the drug through less regulated channels, including app-based pharmacies.

The report underscores the necessity for increased awareness and understanding among healthcare professionals, particularly plastic surgeons, who may encounter more patients seeking GLP-1 agonists for cosmetic purposes. This trend highlights the evolving role of medical practitioners in navigating patient inquiries about off-label drug use.

While GLP-1 agonists are generally well tolerated in patients with type 2 diabetes and have shown benefits in managing cardiac-related issues, they are not devoid of side effects. These can range from gastrointestinal issues to more severe complications like pancreatitis, hypoglycaemia, and kidney failure. The lack of extensive data on the use of these drugs for cosmetic weight loss, particularly in non-diabetic patients, presents a challenge to understanding the full scope of their impact.

Medical experts caution that the enthusiasm for these drugs, spurred on by social media and celebrity influence, often overshadows the need for rigorous scientific evaluation and patient safety considerations. The study calls for further research and the development of operational guidelines to manage the outcomes of cosmetic use of GLP-1 agonists.

As interest in medical alternatives to surgical treatments for obesity grows, plastic surgeons find themselves at the forefront of managing the implications of this trend. They are urged to stay informed about these drugs and their uses, provide appropriate counselling, and develop treatment plans that consider the safety and ethical dimensions of off-label drug use.

The study also notes the importance of recognising the influence of social media and celebrities in shaping public opinion and aesthetic trends. This awareness is crucial for predicting future demands and ensuring that plastic surgery practices, including medispas and weight-loss centres, are equipped to address these trends responsibly.

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