New weight loss drugs becoming popular in 2022: risks, side effects
- Drugs like semaglutide and tirzepatide are becoming increasingly popular as weight loss treatments.
- Initially used to treat diabetes, the drugs help moderate appetite and reduce cravings.
- They are considered safe, although research is ongoing, and side effects include nausea and loss of interest in food.
A new category of weight loss drugs, repurposed from diabetes treatments, is seriously changing the way we think about and approach weight management.
In 2021, the drug semaglutide, called a “game changer” in the industry, officially received FDA approval to be prescribed for weight loss. In 2022, it grew in popularity, becoming more widely used and prompting more research. In the past year, another promising drug has also sought approval as a weight loss treatment.
Here’s what we know about the drugs, from their effectiveness to their side effects.
Semaglutide became so popular that it caused shortages
Semaglutide, originally used to treat diabetes, was approved by the FDA for weight loss in 2021 and is sold under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic.
The drug acts on a specific hormone called GLP-1 that controls appetite, so patients who take the drug feel full. It also helps produce insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Research shows that it can help patients lose significant weight and keep it off if they continue to take the medicine.
It was a similar drug, liraglutide Approved by the FDA for weight loss in 2014 — the main difference with semaglutide is that it is longer-lasting, given in weekly instead of daily injections, and the evidence suggests that leads to greater weight loss.
In the summer of 2022, a shortage of semaglutide in Australia was linked to the TikTok trend of users sharing weight loss experiences with drugs, sometimes wrongly.
Elon Musk he added to the media buzz by announcing on Twitter that he was taking it for weight loss. Combined with rumors that the drug was Hollywood’s latest weight-loss hack, experts expressed concern that all the hype could make it harder for patients who need it to access it, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Patients say it helps reduce cravings for junk food and alcohol
One factor in semaglutide’s popularity was the striking anecdotes from patients who said it caused them stop craving foods like bacon and sugary treats.
The drug makes it easier to practice moderation and portion control, according to patients who take it. The drug works in part by altering the brain’s reward center, impairing the appeal of hyperpalatable foods high in salt, fat and sugar.
As a result, it has also shown potential to combat other types of addiction – some patients have found that it reduces their desire to drink alcohol and helps them cut back on drinking.
Tirzepatide has promising results, but is not yet approved for weight loss
In June 2022, a similar diabetes drug called tirzepatide made headlines after research showed people were taking it. lost 20% of their body weight in 16 monthsRachel Hosie of Insider reported.
It works similarly to semaglutide, but has not yet received FDA approval for weight loss.
“We expect it to be approved for the treatment of obesity,” endocrinologist and obesity medicine specialist dr. Scott Isaacs he previously told Insider, though it’s not clear how soon.
However, patients can still access the drug, as it is approved for diabetes, allowing doctors to prescribe it for obesity if they think it will help.
Tirzepatid became popular in 2022 in part because of discounts that make the drug more affordable, but the long-term approach is a concern because insurance rarely covers weight-loss drugs, Isaacs said.
Weight loss drugs are considered safe, but they can cause side effects such as nausea
Both semaglutide and tirzepatide work for weight loss by reducing appetite, which makes patients less likely to overeat. But they can also cause unpleasant symptoms, including nausea and diarrhea.
In some cases, effects of hunger suppression can make it harder for people to enjoy food, causing disgust or indigestion when they try to eat previously loved treats like chocolate, fried chicken or even coffee, Insider’s Anna Medaris previously reported.
More research is needed to assess the drugs’ long-term effects, but current evidence suggests they can be used safely and effectively to treat patients, Dr. W. Scott Butsch, director of obesity medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
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