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Ozempic and Wegovy gain popularity for weight loss, also cause spike in emergency calls for adverse side effects

Colorado doctor discusses side effects of Ozempic and Wegovy
Colorado doctor discusses side effects of Ozempic and Wegovy 01:43

Medications initially created to help those living with Type 2 diabetes are now causing more people to have side effects, according to Banner Health. Ozempic and Wegovy, two medications originally designed for treating diabetics, have gained popularity among those hoping to lose weight as well.

While the drugs have proven successful at helping many lose weight, Banner Health has also seen a 100% increase in calls to the poison and drug center when it comes to those using the drugs experiencing other adverse reactions.

"It is not a medication that is for everybody," said Samuel Saltz, a doctor with Banner Health in Fort Collins. Banner Health operates hospitals across several western states including Colorado.

The drugs were initially created to help create natural hormones in the pancreas, assisting those with Type 2 diabetes.

"The pancreas helps control your insulin which helps control your blood sugar," Saltz said.

Over time people noticed they were also losing some of their appetite as a side effect of the medications, which naturally led to weight loss.


"It can cause gastroparesis, which is where your stomach slows down. So, when that happens, it can make you feel full. People lose their appetite drive with that medication," Saltz said.

That side effect caused many to flock to the medication, requesting prescriptions from their doctors for the drug even without any diagnosis of diabetes.

While the drugs have proven useful for many in their weight loss journey, doctors note that stopping the medication will in most cases result in consumers gaining all of the weight back.

RELATED: WeightWatchers launches program for users of Ozempic and other weight-loss drugs

More concerningly, Saltz said many who started taking the medications have had to go to the emergency room with other symptoms.

"It can cause gallbladder disease and diarrhea. Those kinds of things will lead to dehydration which will lead to an ER visit," Saltz said.

Ozempic's television ads do warn of symptoms that can result in nausea, fainting and more.


Saltz encouraged those interested in, or those already consuming, Ozempic or Wegovy to always seek professional supervision while taking the medications. 

And, he warned of taking comparable medications that come from compounded pharmacies, where the medications are made on the spot instead of at the manufacturers warehouse.

Compounding pharmacies making similar medications may not place proper amounts of each ingredient in the medication, potentially leading to more adverse side effects. Saltz also warned of users potentially becoming hooked on the medication.

"Any medication that has an effect that people like to take advantage of, that can cause an abuse effect," Saltz said. 

Those with medullary thyroid cancer should avoid these drugs, as should those with reflux disease.

Saltz encouraged anyone experiencing side effects that make them feel sick to call their doctors and visit an emergency room. 

Concerns grow over misuse of weight loss drugs as calls to poison control centers increase 03:07
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