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Health Experts Answer 6 Common Questions About Wegovy for Weight Loss

Wegovy has recently gained popularity for its ability to predictably help people lose a significant amount of weight. Xavier Lorenzo/Getty Images
  • Wegovy is a weight loss drug that has become increasingly popular over the last year.
  • Wegovy is similar to Ozempic but the two have important differences.
  • While many people may find Wegovy to be effective, it isn’t the right solution for everyone.

If you have an interest in the weight loss drug Wegovy, it’s fair to say you’re not alone.

“The recent popularity of this type of drug has caused a shortage in supply, which is making it more difficult to obtain a prescription,” registered dietitian Jordan Hill, shared with Healthline.

Hill is a lead registered dietician with Top Nutrition Coaching.

While many people have found Wegovy effective, it won’t be the right solution for everyone.

It can be difficult to navigate whether this drug is a healthy way to help you achieve your long-term weight loss goals, especially when confronted with the similarities to another drug, Ozempic.

To help you sort things out, Hill and other experts have provided answers to some of the most common questions about Wegovy.

What is Wegovy and how does it work?

Rutuja Patel, DO, medical weight loss specialist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, told Healthline that, “Wegovy is the brand name of a compound called semaglutide. It is in a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists.”

This means that semaglutide acts like GLP-1 in your body.

GLP-1 is a hormone made in your gut when you eat. It has many functions, including making you feel satiated — or full — so you know to stop eating.

“It also delays emptying of the stomach which helps us feel full longer,” said Patel.

This is not the first drug to mimic the effects of GLP-1, but it has some exceptional properties not seen in other such drugs.

“Semaglutide is unique in its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and induce satiety which is why it works better than the other GLP-1 receptor agonists to aid weight loss,” said Patel.

How is Wegovy different from Ozempic?

“Wegovy and Ozempic are both GLP-1 receptor agonists and share the same active ingredient, semaglutide, but they are used for different purposes and have different dosages,” said Hill.

Wegovy is specifically meant to be used for weight loss in people who have clinical obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. It’s also meant for people who are clinically overweight — a BMI of 27 or greater — in addition to having other related health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.

Ozempic, on the other hand, is meant to be used as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, though weight loss can still be one of its side effects.

“The recommended dose for Wegovy is 2.4 mg once weekly while Ozempic is either 0.5 mg or 1 mg once weekly,” explained Hill.

How effective is Wegovy?

“Most patients on Wegovy can lose 5% [of their starting body weight] or more, some more than that,” said Patel.

She cited the results of the peer-reviewed STEP trial from 2021.

The trial ran for 68 weeks, and was a randomized, double-blind, multi-center study in which some participants received Wegovy (semaglutide) while others received a placebo.

The results showed that 83% of those taking Wegovy lost at least 5% of their weight compared to 31% in the placebo group, and 48% of those taking Wegovy lost at least 15% of their weight compared to only 5% in the placebo group.

It should be noted that the STEP trial was funded by Norvo Nordisk, the company that makes Wegovy.

In its current form, the drug is meant for chronic weight management, as opposed to quickly shedding weight and then ceasing medication.

“Patients who stopped taking Wegovy at the end of the clinical trial regained most of their weight within a year. The decision to both start Wegovy and stop Wegovy should be done carefully in the care of a clinician who understands obesity” said Patel.

As the popularity of these medications continues to grow, so do the questions people have about the potential risks and benefits. Here are answers to a few additional questions people frequently ask about the use of Wegovy and Ozempic:

Is Wegovy safe?

“Because Wegovy was approved by the FDA, we can assume it’s generally safe when prescribed appropriately by a doctor,” said Hill.

The FDA approval specifically applies to adults, and only those meeting the criteria of having a BMI of 30 or greater, or a BMI of 27 or greater coupled with a related health condition.

The approval also specifies that Wegovy should be used as one part of a larger plan that also includes permanent changes to dietary and physical activity routines.

And, like all medications, side effects are also a possibility.

“Some of the common side effects seen by those taking Wegovy include GI-related issues, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea,” said Hill.

How much does Wegovy cost, and how can you get it?

“Wegovy costs $1,386.00 for a one-month supply. With insurance it varies,” said Patel.

Many insurance plans have exclusions for obesity care, meaning treatments such as Wegovy would not be covered. These sorts of coverage exclusions will vary from one insurer to the next, and sometimes even between policies offered by the same insurer.

“If weight loss medications are included in a patient’s plan the copay can be anywhere from $25 to $100 per month,” said Patel.

But because Wegovy is meant for long-term use, you shouldn’t start taking it if you don’t think you can afford the payments. You might consider whether you expect your insurance to change in the future, such as if you’re approaching retirement.

Neither Medicare nor Medicaid cover Wegovy. However, they will cover semaglutide as a treatment for diabetes.

Wegovy requires a prescription from a doctor and cannot be purchased as an over-the-counter drug.

What other semaglutides are available?

“While clinical data to date shows that Wegovy was the most effective in weight loss, there are other medications for obesity like Qsymia, Contrave and Saxenda,” said Patel.

However, medications are not the only route to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. And even when medications are used, they’re usually intended to be part of a larger plan.

As alternative obesity treatments to Wegovy, Hill recommends considering:

  • working with a dietitian on behavior and habit changes
  • lifestyle modifications to diet, exercise, and lifestyle behaviors
  • practicing mindfulness, stress management, and proper sleep hygiene
  • seeking support from family, friends, and third parties
  • bariatric surgery (for some cases and only after seeking counsel from a doctor)

Takeaway

Wegovy has recently gained popularity for its ability to predictably help people lose significant amounts of weight, but this is only part of the story.

Wegovy has specific use cases that are limited to adults with clinical obesity or who are clinically overweight with other related conditions.

It’s also meant for long-term use, so an expectation of long-term insurance coverage and a discussion with a doctor should both be factors in deciding whether this medication is right for you.

And, as is usually the case, Wegovy is meant to be one tool of many in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

“Those taking [Wegovy] should have a commitment to lifestyle changes through diet and movement and be under the supervision of their doctor and dietitian,” recommended Hill.