Ozempic or Wegovy is an FDA-approved medicine, now earning a lot of attention for its success in helping people lose weight. Concerns have been raised, however, about the potential link between Wegovy use and increased depression and suicidal ideation.
As of September 2023, the number of people experiencing self-harm and suicidal thoughts while using Ozempic or Wegovy – has doubled in the last two months.
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Ozempic or Wegovy in the UK
Ozempic or Wegovy, is used to treat diabetes but has also been found in tests to be particularly effective in the treatment of obesity.
In June, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the drug a “game changer” and launched a trial programme in which GPs will be able to provide the weekly injection to obese patients.
As of September 2023, these weight loss medications have been approved and licenced. Beyond that, Sunak has stated that GPs in England, as well as specialist weight-management clinics, may soon begin offering it to some patients.
Ozempic is a diabetes medication that helps control blood sugar and weight. It contains a lesser amount of the same pharmaceutical, semaglutide, as Wegovy.
Side effects of Ozempic or Wegovy
All these medicines have potential side effects. For weight-loss drugs, which should be used alongside a healthy diet and exercise, more common ones include:
- stomach ache
Depression or thoughts of suicide is listed in the product-information leaflet, which advises users: “You should pay attention to any mental changes, especially sudden changes in your mood, behaviours, thoughts, or feelings. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any mental changes that are new, worse, or worry you.”
Within the last two months, after reports of patients reporting suicidal thoughts, health officials announced a review of the treatment, which contains the main component semaglutide, among other similar weight-loss drugs, in July.
Semaglutide belongs to the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist class of medicines, the first of which was created a decade ago as a therapy for type 2 diabetes. These medications mimic the GLP-1 hormone in the gut, which aids in the release of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
However, scientists discovered that they decreased hunger, resulting in weight loss. Semaglutide regularly indicated in studies that obese patients dropped about 10% of their weight and kept it off while taking the medicine.
Reports on Suicidal Thoughts
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced the review after receiving five complaints of semaglutide patients who had suicidal or self-harming thoughts after taking the medication. It had also received 12 reports of comparable side effects in people receiving liraglutide, a related medicine.
Moreover, the MHRA has now revealed that the number of reports of patients having suicide or self-harming thoughts has risen to 23 in just two months. It has also received six more reports involving liraglutide.
Since 2010, the US Food and medicine Administration has received 265 reports of suicidal thoughts or behaviours in patients taking this type of weight-loss medicine, 36 of which detail a suicide or suspected suicide.
According to experts, the probable relationship between these medicines and suicidal thoughts is most likely related to the underlying mental health conditions that cause many people to become obese.
Experts worry the rise in patients experiencing suicidal thoughts may be linked to the surge in people buying the drugs online without a seeing a doctor.
‘Semaglutide is really effective, but you can’t entirely solve obesity by throwing drugs at it,’ says Prof Strain. ‘Obesity patients need psychological support. Online companies can’t offer that.’