The hype and dangers of Ozempic

At last week’s Emmy awards, big winners were grateful to their agents, executives, and audiences, but there was one notable benefactor for many stars that went unnoticed: the injectable drug semaglutide, whose brand name is Ozempic.

The drug is an insulin regulator for pre-diabetics made by Danish pharmaceutical juggernaut Novo Nordisk, whose primary side effect is dramatic weight loss. It has saturated the industry in recent months and helped the beautiful and rich shed extra pounds in the never-ending Los Angeles pastime of optimizing appearance. Hollywood nutritionist Matt Mahowald tells: Variety that the main benefits of the injections are “moderating and withdrawal of insulin secretion, and slowing the emptying of your stomach. It promotes food satiety.”

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A top power broker told Variety that half of her phone book last week was filled with friends and clients wanting to discuss the risks of Ozempic, which has claimed devotees from all corners of the industry. Moguls, reality stars, veteran film producers and, of course, actors are quietly singing the drug’s praises on Signal, the encrypted messaging app mostly used for confidential conversations. Celebrity hair, makeup and styling teams have come to accept the injections as part of grooming rituals ahead of major events. In a matter of months, it has become the worst kept secret in Hollywood – especially considering that the most avid users are not pre-diabetic and do not need the drug. It’s currently supplied by doctors and nutritionists, though rumor has it that you can also score the drug at medical spas in Arizona. It is of course not cheap.

“It quickly becomes $1,200 to $1,500 per month. If you go out and buy an Ozempic pen from a pharmacist, you get a refund for it,” adds Mahowald.

However, the industry’s frenetic reaction has created a headache for the major insurance companies.

“It has become a huge problem, everyone is jumping on this bandwagon. The insurance companies refuse to cover this for anyone who does not have diabetes. It has led to panic. Pharmacies have units on back order until December,” adds Mahowald.

More worryingly, according to numerous reports, overwhelming demand is causing those who need the injections to struggle with reduced supply. A second version of semaglutide called Wegovy, which specifically targets obesity, is also doing the rounds and appears to be barely available.

The drug made international headlines three months ago after it went viral on TikTok, when the #MyOzempicJourney trend showed dazzling transformations (The Guardian reported the hashtag #Ozempic was viewed 74 million times on the platform). Earlier this month, City and Country wrote a post claiming the drug was the talk of seaside dinner parties. Glamor magazine followed business suit.

“Obesity is an epidemic,” warned Dr. Zhaoping Li, chief of clinical nutrition at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “The problem is that this is one of the tools in our box, it’s not the end. The longest-running study of these injections was less than two years. Many questions have not been answered.”

dr. Li added that the maximum weight loss in most patients is 15% of body weight, which brings us back to the terrible truth that the resourceful people of Hollywood don’t like to hear: “It comes down to lifestyle. Activity, good food and stress management.”

Like any weight loss miracle drug, there is skepticism about long-term use. In addition to a slimmer figure, a notable side effect is “gastrointestinal signs — bloating, constipation, diarrhea,” according to Town and Country.

When asked about this unpleasant risk, a talent publicist said bluntly, “Who cares? Everyone who works in this industry has IBS anyway.”

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