The diabetes drug Ozempic has become a social media phenomenon for its weight loss properties. Videos under the hashtag #Ozempic have nearly 600 million views on TikTok, where many users regularly update followers about their weight loss.
But its soaring popularity has led to global shortages and doctors warn about the potential side effects. Besides nausea (the most common side effect of the drug), “there are also rarer and more serious risks such as acute pancreatitis – which can occur even at lower doses – biliary disorders, and rare cases of severe constipation which can lead to bowel obstruction”, says Jean-Luc Faillie, a pharmacology specialist at France’s Montpellier University.
He also pointed to an “increased risk of thyroid cancer” following several years of treatment. And while the risks were reasonable considering the benefits for people with diabetes, “there are still uncertainties, particularly in obese patients over the long term,” he said.
“If it is used to lose a few kilograms, then the therapeutic benefit is zero,” Faillie added. “That would just be cosmetic, while the risks remain.”