By now, you know all about Ozempic, the type 2 diabetes medication that's been approved as a prescription weight-loss drug under the name Wegovy.
Here's the thing, while everyone's talking about what happens when you go on Ozempic, fewer people are chatting about what happens when (or if) you get off the drug.
In fact, experts are calling attention to the fact that when it comes to how long you should stay on Ozempic for sustained results, the answer is actually: forever.
What happens if you stop taking the drug, either permanently or because you just miss a few doses? Here's what obesity medicine experts have to say.
Meet the experts: Kunal Shah, MD, is an assistant professor in the division of endocrinology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center.
Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, MBA, is an obesity medicine physician, scientist, and Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Jena Shaw Tronieri, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a researcher who focuses on improving weight loss treatment outcomes for patients with obesity.
First, A Quick Refresher On The Ozempic Basics
Ozempic is a brand name for semaglutide. Again, it’s currently only FDA approved for managing type 2 diabetes, but is also increasingly being prescribed used off-label for weight loss.
Fellow semagluide medication Wegovy—which is made by the same company as Ozempic—is FDA approved for chronic weight management in adolescents and adults who are overweight or obese. FYI, in most cases, what is stated in this article about Ozempic would also apply to Wegovy, says Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, an obesity medicine physician, scientist, and associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Ozempic mimics a protein in your body called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), says Kunal Shah, MD, an assistant professor in the division of endocrinology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center. That activates GLP-1 receptors in your body, leading to an increase in the production of insulin, which helps move glucose into your body’s cells, where it’s used for energy.
Ozempic also signals to your brain to make you want to eat less and store fewer calories, says Dr. Stanford. At the same time, it slows food movement through your stomach, making you feel less hungry, Dr. Stanford explains.
Ozempic is an injectable medication and it’s designed to be used “indefinitely,” Dr. Stanford says.
What happens in the short-term when you stop taking Ozempic?
Life happens and sometimes you may end up stopping Ozempic for a short period of time. Maybe you have trouble locating the dose you need or you go on vacation and forget to take it.
Whatever the deal, you shouldn’t panic if you stop taking Ozempic short-term, says Jena Shaw Tronieri, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and a researcher who focuses on improving weight-loss treatment outcomes for patients with obesity.
“It shouldn’t be an issue for most people,” Tronieri says. Some people may notice it’s slightly less effective—maybe you feel a little hungrier than usual or you regain a little weight—but Tronieri says the medication tends to stay in your body for weeks. “If you just missed one dose, take it when you can and continue your usual routine,” she says.
What happens in the long-term when you stop taking Ozempic?
Some people want to be on one of these medications long-term, but others may deal with unwanted side effects, like nausea, or just may not like the idea of being on a medication forever.
Whatever your reason, experts say you can expect the following to happen if you go off Ozempic:
Your Hunger Comes Back
Ozempic can tamp down on feelings of hunger and, once you stop taking it, those sensations return. “People tend to find that their hunger comes back with a vengeance,” Dr. Shah says. “People might even feel a lot more hungry before it evens out. It’s just that the [medication] is no longer helping.”
You'll Likely Regain Some Weight
“There’s a pretty high chance of weight regain,” Dr. Shah says. “Upwards of 70 percent-plus of people experience weight regain after stopping semaglutide.”
Your Side Effects Should Go Away
Ozempic does come with the risk of side effects like nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, and constipation—and those side effects will go away over time when you stop the medication. “If a patient has side effects such as constipation or nausea, they will likely start to notice improvement within a week or two if they discontinued the medication,” Dr. Stanford says.
Your Blood Sugar May Go Up
If you have type 2 diabetes and are using Ozempic for blood sugar control, your blood sugar will likely go up after you stop taking it—if you didn't make lifestyle changes as well, Tronieri says.
How long does it take for the side effects of stopping Ozempic to go away?
There aren’t really any side effects of stopping the medication, experts say. “There are no known withdrawal symptoms from using semaglutide,” Dr. Stanford says.
However, things like your hunger levels going up may level off within a few weeks, Dr. Shah says.
How To Keep Weight Off After Stopping Ozempic
Dr. Shah says he counsels his patients to expect to regain weight after going off Ozempic. Dr. Stanford also says that it’s “likely” that most people will regain weight when they stop taking the medication.
“To reduce the amount of weight regain, we can recommend high levels of physical activity—150 to 300+ minutes per week—whole foods, sleep maintenance, and stress management,” she says.
Again, though, you'll want to talk to your own doctor for personalized recommendations.
The bottom line: If you’re interested in starting Ozempic, it’s a good idea to plan to be on it for the long term, experts say. But if you find that the medication isn’t for you, talk to your doctor about your other options before stopping. They should be able to help counsel you on the next steps.
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