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'Magic pill does not exist': Doctors warn of paying the price for trendy short-term weight loss drugs

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CBS News Baltimore Live

BALTIMORE - A diabetic drug is taking social media by storm as a quick way to lose weight.

But the alarming trend's short-term effects could be hurting you in the long run

Doctors are pleading with people to stop this fad as the soaring demand for it is affecting people who truly need it. 

It's a hot topic on TikTok with endless personal accounts of people drastically losing weight in a short amount of time.

The main drug they are using is called Ozempic, which is a medication designed to stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin for people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. 

Weight loss TikTok trend triggers shortage of diabetic medication 03:10

But people who are not diabetic and just have the desire to lose weight quickly are picking up the syringe to inject themselves.

It's even a trend that celebrities like Elon Musk, Rosie O'Donnell and Chelsea Handler have joined by taking similar types of drugs.

"It becomes almost this fashionable thing where superstars are using it to stay thin and that's absolutely not its intended use at all," Dr. Neda Frayha, with Ascension St Agnes Primary Care, said.

Dr. Frayha said this alarming trend is creating major supply shortages

Therefore, people who truly need the medication are forced to wait for manufacturers to restock it this month.

Influencer and model Remi Bader talked about her experience with the drug and is annoyed that it became a craze.

"Now it's considered this trendy drug that is just looking at as negative," she said on a TikTok with WeightDoc. "But what about all the people that need it?"

These drugs also come with a hefty price tag. 

Dr. Celine Gounder, the editor-at-large for public health at Kaiser Health News, said it costs about $15,000 a year. It's part of the reason why we are seeing celebrities jump on this trend. 

But most insurance companies, along with Medicaid and Medicare, do not cover these drugs. 

"40 percent of Americans are obese and if you had to treat people at $15,000 a year," Dr. Gounder said. "You are looking at trillions of dollars. More than we already spend on healthcare."

There's not much research on the long-term effects of these drugs, but some studies show people become more at risk to pancreatitis, gallstones and kidney disease.

Besides, as soon as people stop taking them, the pounds return.

"If you are not on them basically for the rest of your life, the weight comes right back on," Dr. Gounder said.

We reached out to Novo Nordisk, the healthcare company that makes Ozempic and Wegovy. 

In a statement to WJZ, they say these drugs are not intended as lifestyle medications and are prescription only. 

"While we recognize that some healthcare providers may be prescribing Ozempic® for patients whose goal is to lose weight, it is up to the clinical discretion of each healthcare provider to choose the best treatment approach for their patients," they added. "Novo Nordisk does not promote, suggest, or encourage off-label use of our medicines and is committed to fully complying with all applicable US laws and regulations in the promotion of our products. We trust that healthcare providers are evaluating a patient's individual needs and determining which medicine is right for that particular patient."

Rather than trying to find a quick fix, doctors recommend developing a healthier lifestyle to shed the pounds instead.

"I think we as a society have been looking for the magic cure, the magic pill sort to speak, to treat overweight and obesity for decades, and that magic pill does not exist," Dr. Frayha said.

Dr. Frayha also encourages people to speak to their healthcare provider to determine what are the best methods to use personally for their health needs.

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