What Medical Providers Need to Know About
Wegovy® (Semaglutide) for Weight Loss
If you’re looking for a new weight loss medication to offer your patients, you may have heard of Wegovy® (semaglutide). Semaglutide is a new class of medication shown to be effective for weight loss.
In this blog post, we’ll give you an overview of how semaglutide works and why they may or may not be a good option for your patients. We’ll also provide information on how to get certified in medical weight management so you can grow your practice with semaglutide and other effective weight loss treatments for your patients.
What Is Semaglutide?
Semaglutide (SGT) is part of a class of medications called GLP-1 receptor agonists, or glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists. Agonists are drugs or substances that can be used to trigger a physiological response when paired with a receptor.
In the case of SGT, it affects GLP-1 receptors to increase insulin secretion. It is used to treat Type 2 Diabetes by helping to control high blood sugar and, more recently, FDA-approved for medically-supervised weight loss.
How Does Semaglutide Work?
Semaglutide works by mimicking a hormone in the human body that signals the body to stop eating by initiating more insulin production. This hormone is called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). Semaglutide is injected under the skin and can help reduce hunger and make patients feel more full. This in turn can lead to weight loss because patients are eating less and also don’t feel hungry.
Note: With any successful medically-supervised weight loss treatment program, diet and exercise are an equally important part of the equation.
What is Wegovy®?
Wegovy® is a branded semaglutide marketed by Novo Nordisk. The same company also has another branded semaglutide on the market called Ozempic used to treat Type 2 Diabetes.
Are Wegovy® and Ozempic® the same?
Both Wegovy® and Ozempic® have the same base ingredient – semaglutide. The main difference is that Wegovy® is in the dose. Wegovy® comes with a much higher dose than Ozempic®. Because drugs can have very different effects depending on their dosage, this is an important difference to note. Wegovy® in its current dosage and application is FDA-approved for weight loss. Ozempic® is FDA-approved for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
Substituting one for the other in either case could be considered as “off-label” use.
In either case, these are prescriptions drugs that must be taken under the supervision of a healthcare provider. For Wegovy® treatment for weight loss, it is important that the provider be certified in a medical weight management program that also includes a proven diet and exercise plan for optimal results.
Wegovy® is a prescription medication that must be taken under the supervision of a healthcare provider. A Wegovy® weight loss program typically includes weekly injections and regular check-ins with a healthcare provider to track progress and side effects.
- Both Wegovy® and Ozempic® are preparations of the GLP-1 receptor agonist semaglutide
- Wegovy® and Ozempic® are two of the possible GLP-1 medications you could be prescribed as a part of the Calibrate program, among several others
- The main difference between Wegovy® and Ozempic® is their dose strengths: Ozempic® is available in doses of up to 1.0 mg, whereas Wegovy® is available in doses of up to 2.4 mg
- Both Ozempic® and Wegovy® are delivered once per week by self-injection
Ozempic® and Wegovy® are FDA-approved and manufactured by NovoNordisk
- “While Ozempic is FDA-approved for treatment of type 2 diabetes, it is biosimilar to Wegovy and is used off-label for weight loss.
How Effective is Wegovy® for Weight Loss?
In addition to promoting satiety and reducing hunger, semaglutide has also been shown to help people lose weight and keep it off. The FDA approval of Wegovy® was based on the results of the STEP (Semaglutide Treatment Effect in People with Obesity) clinical trial program, which included four phase 3a clinical trials involving approximately 4,500 patients.
In the STEP 1 trial, results also showed that patients taking Wegovy® achieved an average weight loss of 14.9% of body weight at 68-weeks vs. 2.4% for placebo. In addition, 83.5% of patients achieved 5% or more body weight reduction in the Wegovy arm vs. 31.1% for placebo.
Who Should Take Wegovy®?
Patients 18 years and older who have a body mass index of 27 or higher with at least one health condition related to weight (like high cholesterol, high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes) and do not contraindicate with this product are considered good candidates for a medically-supervised weight loss program using Wegovy®.
Who Shouldn't Take Wegovy®? (Contraindications)
Wegovy® is contraindicated in patients with a personal or family history of MTC or in patients with MEN 2. Counsel patients regarding the potential risk for MTC with the use of Wegovy® and inform them of symptoms of thyroid tumors (e.g. a mass in the neck, dysphagia, dyspnea, persistent hoarseness).
There is a potential risk of thyroid C-cell tumors with the use of Wegovy®. It should not be used in patients with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma. Patients should be counselled regarding the risk of MTC and informed of symptoms of thyroid tumors. For example, wathicng for a mass in the neck, dysphagia, dyspnea or persistent hoarseness.
Wegovy® is also contraindicated with a rare condition called Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).
Other warnings with the use of Wegovy® include:
- Patients with history of severe allergic reactions to semaglutide or other components of Wegovy.
- Gall bladder problems (including gallstones)
- Low blood sugar
- Acute kidney injury
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Increased heart rate
- Suicidal behavior or thinking
- Patients who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
- Patients who are breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed
How Much Weight Can a Patient Expect to Lose Using Wegovy®?
Results will vary for each patient depending on background, how long they been obese, how well they follow an approved diet and exercise plan among other factors. In the STEP trials included with the FDA-approval for Wegovy® for weight loss, patients lost on average 41 lbs over the course of the 68-week study.
How Long Does It Take Wegovy® to Start Working?
Wegovy® will begin taking effect immediately upon the first injection.
However, it can take several weeks or even months for patients to experience a change in their appetite and/or weight loss results depending on their history, diet plan and exercise habits among other factors.
In the STEP clinic trials for the FDA-approval of Wegovy® as a weight loss drug, patients taking Wegovy® achieved, on average, 15% weight loss vs. 2.5% weight loss on a reduced calorie diet with increased exercise alone with the average starting weight for the trial being 232 lbs.
What Happens After You Stop Taking Wegovy®?
Wegovy® can stay in a patient’s system for up to 5 to 7 weeks after their last injection. Studies have found that two-thirds of patients gained the weight back over time without proper support to continue a better diet and more active lifestyle. As a provider, you should have a maintenance phase plan for any patients undergoing weight management treatment under your supervision. The right medical weight management certification will include a maintenance phase for your patients to follow.
What Are the Side Effects of Wegovy®?
The most frequently reported adverse events were nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, constipation, and abdominal pain.
Other side effects can include dyspepsia, dizziness, abdominal distension, eructation, hypoglycemia, flatulence, gastroenteritis and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
How Long Does Wegovy® Stay in Your System?
Your patients can expect Wegovy® to remain in their system for anywhere from 5-7 weeks after their last dose.
How Long Does a Patient Need to Take Wegovy® to Lose Weight?
Most patients should expect to take Wegovy® for just over one year – or 56 weeks to be exact. During the STEP trial used for the FDA approval for Wegovy®, patients who stopped taking Wegovy® after 20 weeks saw a 6.9% increase in weight gain after this point to week 68 of the trial vs. patients who remained on Wegovy® for the full 68 weeks, who continued to see their weight decline on average by another 7.9%.
How much does Wegovy cost?
The price of Wegovy® varies depending on the pharmacy. Patients can expect to pay on average $200 for a one-month supply of Wegovy®.
Is There a Generic Form of Wegovy®?
No. There is no generic form of Wegovy®. Some references mention using Ozempic® as a potential workaround for coverage. However, it should be noted that Ozempic® is approved for treatment of diabetes and any substitution for weight loss treatment could be considered “off-label”.
How Can I Get Certified to Offer Wegovy®?
If you’re interested in offering Wegovy® to your patients, you should consider a medical weight management certification that also includes a supporting diet and exercise plan with a phase for weight loss and a maintenance phase to further support your patients.
The IAPAM’s Medical Weight Management Certification offers training in Wegovy® along with other FDA-approved drug therapies and a proprietary ketogenic/intermittent fasting diet plan that really works! Over 80,000 patients have successful lost weight using our Clean Start Weight Loss® program.
The full program takes about 8 hours to complete and can be done in-person as part of the Aesthetic Medicine Symposium or online as a self-study certification that you can complete at your own pace.
Wegovy® (semaglutide) offers a new option for patients looking to lose weight. By mimicking the hormone GLP-1, it works to increase insulin levels which in turns encourages satiety and reduction of hunger. It has also been shown to help people lose weight and keep it off.
Wegovy® can also help improve other related health conditions like Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. If you are interested in offering this medically-supervised weight loss program in your practice, you can get certified right now with the IAPAM’s self-study online Medical Weight Management certification.
Get Certified in Medical Weight Management Online
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Wegovy® and Ozempic® are registered trademarks of Novo Nordisk.