Patients Discover Going Off Ozempic Is No Easy Road

One study saw people gain back two-thirds of weight lost within a year of stopping meds
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2024 5:30 AM CDT
Patients Discover Going Off Ozempic Is No Easy Road
The injectable drug Ozempic.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Patients on GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic for weight loss often gain back the pounds they shed after they stop taking them. But continuing treatment indefinitely isn't viable for many, the Wall Street Journal reports, especially as insurance companies are shifting how freely they cover leading brands Wegovy, Zepbound, and Ozempic. Some health plans are enforcing more stringent requirements or ceasing coverage, the paper says—and though manufacturers offer coupons to get people started, the cost can run up to $1,000 per month once that option runs dry. Dr. Myra Ahmad of telehealth obesity clinic Mochi says that prior authorizations that ended up being approved by insurance companies dropped from 60% in 2022 to between 25% and 30% now.

One study found that within a year, patients gained back two-thirds of weight lost after they stopped taking GLP-1 medications. Dr. Ania Jastreboff, an obesity medicine physician-scientist at Yale, told People that because diabetes and obesity are chronic conditions, the medication isn't supposed to stop. "If you have a patient who has high blood pressure, they have hypertension, and you start them on an antihypertensive medication, and their blood pressure improves, what would happen if you stopped that medication? Well, their blood pressure would go back up—and we're not surprised. It's the same with anti-obesity medications."

The Journal offers a few tips to people who need to end treatment, and going cold turkey is not recommended. "If you do it abruptly, it's practically guaranteed you're going to regain weight," said Dr. Dan Azagury, medical director of Stanford Lifestyle and Weight Management Clinic. "Sometimes the hunger comes back really significantly, and it's really hard to fight that if you stop it overnight." He also says exercising more as you wean off the drugs, with intense exercise six days per week, can help manage the change. If a drug is no longer available due to coverage loss, trying a different weight-loss drug is an option, though the FDA warns against using off-brand options. (One teen's story shows how childhood obesity is changing.)

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