A drug designed to treat diabetes has become one of the hottest and most controversial weight loss crazes to date.
Now, people are saying they wished they “never touched it.”
Ozempic is a medication designed for people with Type 2 diabetes that has become widely used as a weight loss drug.
Ozempic and Wegovy are semaglutides, which help the pancreas release the right amount of insulin when blood sugar levels are high. The Eli Lilly counterpart, Mounjaro, is a tirzepatide that has been shown to help control blood sugar as well.
The drugs work by mimicking a natural hormone, GLP-1, which slows down the passage of food through the stomach, making people feel full for longer.
However, issues start to arise if the drugs slow down the stomach too much.
CNN spoke to several dieters who have been diagnosed with severe gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis, likely as a result of taking Ozempic, their doctors believe.
Gastroparesis is a condition that slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine, according to the National Institutes of Health. Women are at a higher risk of the condition, and doctors are unable to track down a cause in more than half of cases.
“I wish I never touched it. I wish I’d never heard of it in my life,” Joanie Knight, from Angie, Louisiana, told CNN. “This medicine made my life hell. So much hell. It has cost me money. It cost me a lot of stress; it cost me days and nights and trips with my family. It’s cost me a lot, and it’s not worth it. The price is too high.”
Long after she stopped taking the drug, Knight needed stomach bypass surgery, which has since allowed her to eat some of her favorite foods again without throwing it up.
Patients like Knight experienced inexplicable symptoms, such as burps that smelled like sulfur, and sudden bouts of vomiting so severe it landed them in the hospital — including some who had already been off the drug for months before illness arose. Endoscopies would show their stomachs full of days-old food, which is unusual since typically less than 10% of food consumed is left in the stomach four hours after a meal.
Doctors have said they’re seeing a lot of cases similar to Knight’s and others who spoke to CNN, as well as a spike in ER admissions, all involving GLP-1 class drugs.
The Food and Drug Administration also confirmed such reports, though they are unable to officially determine whether these cases of gastroparesis were caused by the weight-loss drugs or by another condition.
“The FDA has received reports of gastroparesis with semaglutide and liraglutide, some of which documented the adverse event as not recovered after discontinuation of the respective product at the time of the report,” the agency said in a statement to CNN.
In clinical trials for Wegovy, 44% of people taking the drug reported nausea and almost 1 in 4 reported vomiting. For Ozempic, 1 in 5 reported nausea and 1 in 10 reported vomiting.
There is currently no warning of the possibility of gastroparesis on the labels of the drugs.
Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic and Wegovy, points out that these drugs have been studied in both the real world and in clinical trials — and it’s been around for 15 years to treat diabetes and eight years to treat obesity.
“Gastrointestinal (GI) events are well-known side effects of the GLP-1 class,” they told CNN in a statement, and usually “mild to moderate in severity and of short duration.” Delayed gastric emptying, nausea and vomiting are among the listed side effects.
Meanwhile, medics are also sounding the alarm about additional side effects, including blurred vision, kidney failure and gallstones.
Users of the drug have also claimed they experienced odd dreams about Hollywood stars. People have been sharing bizarre slumber fantasies on social media that include joining the cast of “The Golden Girls,” preparing to rob a museum with Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, and carrying Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s baby and then blending their families.
Some have even said their butts have flattened “like a pancake” — including one person who reportedly had undergone a previous Brazilian butt lift.
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