What do you do when you’ve tried exercising, dieting and other lifestyle changes, but nothing’s working?
Medications, like Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy, might be the answer. According to some patients, the weekly injections are delivering results for patients who have been struggling to shed pounds.
Semaglutides were approved by the Food and Drug Administration for weight loss in 2021 under the brand name Wegovy. It’s also available as Ozempic, which is the same medication, but sold to treat Type 2 diabetes.
Mounjaro is slightly different – it’s a tirzapatide. The injectable pen was FDA-approved in 2022 as a diabetes treatment and could soon also be approved for weight loss.
Solutionaries reached out to our viewers to find out their questions about the drugs and how they work, and whether they’re using them to lose weight. Stephanie Parris has been using Mounjaro for weight loss since January.
Parris was one of many who told us the injectable medications have changed her life. Her family is always spending time outdoors and since starting the medication, she feels more like herself.
“We’re pretty active. I mean, we like to go boating, we have a pool because we like to spend a lot of time outdoors,” Parris said. “Pretty much anything in the sun. My husband’s a big fisherman, so he likes to spend time doing that. My daughter naturally likes that too.”
Parris said her weight gain started to become noticeable after giving birth to her daughter. She went from a size 25 to a size 32 in jeans and couldn’t lose weight. She tried Keto and Whole30 diets and strict exercise regimens, but nothing worked long-term.
She also began to struggle with her mental health post-partum, which she believes contributed to her weight gain.
“I was really struggling with it right before I went back to work from my maternity leave. So I asked for help. I got put on antidepressants and it really changed my body. I needed that for my mental stability, obviously, to be a good mom, and to be a good wife. But unfortunately, made it very easy to gain weight and very hard to lose weight,” Parris said. “My confidence was, you know, as low as it could be. And think about our lifestyle. We love fishing, we love being on the boat and stuff like that it was thinking of me in a bathing suit, even a one piece was just cringeworthy.”
Parris started hearing about weight loss injections like Mounjaro last year through social media. She never believed they worked until she heard about it from an old friend.
“Someone I grew up with, I saw, I think she was probably the first person that I saw a huge change in someone who I’ve, I’ve known since I was in high school, and I noticed she was losing a lot of weight,” Parris said.
In six months, Parris is down 25 pounds which she credits the weight loss shots for.
“I think probably for most people, they’d be like, ‘Oh, it’s you know, it’s not a lot for six months,’ but for someone my size or with my, my frame at 5 feet 3 inches, it’s a lot. And I noticed. First off, people say stuff all the time, like my girlfriends are like, ‘Holy cow, you look so good.’ You know, my clothes are much bigger on me. And I feel so much better. Like I’m able to keep up with my child. You know, my kids like, ‘Mom, can we go outside and go to the park?’ Absolutely. Yes. My energy levels are up, so I feel much better.”
So how do the medications work? And are they safe? We went to Thin MD Med Spa in Jacksonville Beach for those answers from Dr. Anthony Capasso. He’s been studying weight loss and perfecting treatment for his patients for the last 17 years.
Capasso believes weight loss is personal. He offers customized weight loss plans for his patients based on their goals and that can include weight loss shots.
“There’s a little difference between Mounjaro and the Wegovy or the Ozempic. In regard to kind of what they do and kind of what, what the incretins which are these hormones that your body produces, kind of how it affects, but both of them work great for weight loss,” Capasso said.
Capasso said it all works by mimicking a natural hormone in the body that helps regulate blood sugar, digestion and hunger. The appetite suppression makes you eat less and in turn, lose weight.
“It’s been one of the best solutions that I’ve seen in 20 years,” Capasso said. “I’ve had patients that I didn’t ever think would lose weight and did. And so, to me, it’s been, it’s been amazing. But it must be monitored.”
Capasso strongly recommends patients are monitored by a doctor when using these injectable weight loss medications, because there is a risk of muscle loss, and the side effects can be intense.
Katherine Zheveleva, a pharmacist practitioner at UF (University of Florida) Health Jacksonville, agrees. We took your questions to her about the potential downfalls of using the injections and whether the drugs are a long-term solution.
There’s also concerns about buying the drugs online or on social media.
“Stomach side effects, so you’ll see lots of nausea, leading to vomiting, heartburn, acid reflux. So, these medications are usually started at a very low dose to get your body used to it. And then they’re titrated up slowly to make sure that you’re tolerating the medication,” Zheveleva said.
Zheveleva thinks social media has accelerated the popularity of these drugs and has also raised some safety concerns. She said responding to advertisements offering semaglutides at a low cost is not in your best interest.
“Those online doctors or providers that have been kind of peddling these drugs so to speak, they’re actually not giving you a prescription,” Zheveleva said. “They’re giving you their own made semaglutide. So, they’re getting the actual compound and making it themselves, so you have no idea what is actually in there. They’re telling you it’s semaglutide, but you don’t really know for sure.”
It’s best to talk to your primary care physician about getting prescribed medications for weight loss or visiting a reputable doctor at a med spa, like Capasso. Zheveleva said you want to make sure you’re getting a prescription for an FDA-approved product.
Unfortunately, Zheveleva said the injections are not a long-term solution for weight loss. Most patients will gain weight back after getting off the medication for a while. You can still use Wegovy or Ozempic to kickstart your weight loss goals, but you’ll have to keep up the same eating habits to maintain your weight.
“I think with all of these medications, you have to stay on it to maintain the weight loss,” Zheveleva said.
If you want to start using these drugs for weight loss, Capasso recommends you see a doctor, get your blood work done and follow up regularly.
Some insurances will cover the costs of the medications, but if they don’t, you can use an RX coupon. Otherwise, the costs of using these drugs can be over $1,000 a month.
This article is part of “Solutionaries,” our continuing commitment to solutions journalism, highlighting the creative people in communities working to make the world a better place, one solution at a time. Find out what you can do to help at SolutionariesNetwork.com.