Sounding the Alarm on Off-Label Use of Diabetes Meds for Weight Loss
That’s right, we are saying it.
Off-label use of drugs intended to treat diabetes is no bueno.
Have you ever found yourself scrolling through social media, feeling frustrated with a plateaued weight loss journey and tempted by the success stories of others who have achieved their goals using the latest fad diet or weight loss drug?
So many of us are experiencing this with the recent trend circulating regarding the use of the Diabetes drugs Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro.
It’s understandable to want to find a quick fix for weight loss that seems unattainable.
As a team of registered dietitians and nutritionists, we understand how challenging it can be for many to achieve sustainable weight loss.
We work with over 3,000 clients to create personalized nutrition plans that support healthy weight management and overall well-being.
With so many weight loss strategies available, it can be tempting to turn to quick fixes like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro, which have been shown to result in weight loss as a side effect.
However, using these drugs off-label for weight loss can be risky and potentially dangerous.
We aren’t here to judge you for wanting a fresh start. However, we WILL shame the un-professional, unethical pharmaceutical push that led to this atrocity becoming mainstream.
Our team of credentialed experts is here to drop the hammer on this dangerous weight loss fad and help you navigate the complex world of weight loss and find safe, and effective, and long-term strategies that suit your unique health needs.
In this article we will go over the intended use for these drugs, the risks of taking it off-label, and why we are seeing this drug being handed out like halloween candy.
Understanding Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro
Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro are medications the FDA approved for treating type 2 diabetes. They belong to a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists.
These drugs work by mimicking the action of the hormone GLP-1, which helps to lower blood sugar levels by stimulating the release of insulin and reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver.
Diabetics use this drug to control the influxes in their blood sugar and manage their diabetes.
Recently, these drugs have gained attention for their potential use as a weight loss medication. While the drugs were not specifically designed for this purpose, they have been shown to result in weight loss as a side effect.
This has led some healthcare providers to prescribe them off-label as a weight loss treatment for individuals who do not have diabetes or insulin resistance. With current supply-chain issues and a massive uptick in off-label use of this product, many diabetics have actually had trouble getting this medicine, which they actually need.
Registered Dietitian, Leslee Sholomskas, MS, RDN, LDN weighs in on the shortages being seen across the US and how they are affecting the diabetic population:
“Off-label use takes the drug away from diabetics who need it and they are struggling to get it, and then they are being prescribed alternative drugs which can be more expensive on their already limited budgets.”
The Risks of Using Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro Off-Label for Weight Loss
While these drugs may result in weight loss, it is vital to understand the potential risks associated with using them for this purpose.
The FDA has not approved these drugs for use in strictly weight loss, and their long-term effects on individuals without diabetes are poorly studied. As a result, using these drugs for weight loss without proper medical supervision can be dangerous.
One of the most significant risks of these drugs is the potential for hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This can occur when the drugs are used in individuals who do not have diabetes or insulin resistance, as their bodies may not be able to handle the lower blood sugar levels that the drugs can cause.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia can include shakiness, dizziness, sweating, and confusion; in severe cases, it can lead to loss of consciousness or seizures.
Another potential risk of using these drugs for weight loss is the potential for gastrointestinal side effects.
Registered Dietitian, Leslee Sholomskas, MS, RDN, LDN goes on to explain what she is seeing in clients and others who are taking these drugs off-label:
“The potential short term “benefits” come with a large list of potential side effects – namely lots of GI side effects and many of our clients already have GI concerns as it is. There are no long term studies on its impacts that I’m aware of. We just don’t know what we are even dealing with.”
But the short-term effects we are seeing speak for themselves.
These drugs can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can be unpleasant and disruptive to daily life. Sometimes, these side effects can be severe enough to require medical intervention. Off-label use of this drug is leaving users worse off than before at achieving a healthy body.
Use of these drugs are not teaching them to balance their diets, exercise, or any other healthy habits that will maintain the weight when they eventually have to come off of it.
“It can dysregulate hunger signals, which are already altered in many as a result of diet culture – getting those cues back is a helpful part of learning to trust your body in moderating portions and sustainable weight management long term.”
They are being left with their biological systems in shambles and completely detached from a reality of proper health and nutrition.
The Down Side They Don’t Tell You About
While these drugs do often lead to weight loss, they don’t result in lasting weight loss.
Do you want to lose 20 pounds quickly only to gain back 30? Or do you want to find a sustainable solution to lose the 20 pounds and keep it off?
Registered Dietitian, Liz Cook, MS, RD, LDN weighs in on the downside that is defeating the purpose of the risks and how this drug is affecting people after they feel they have reached their goals and attempt to come off it:
“These medications work to suppress your appetite, which makes eating less and losing weight easy. However, when you stop taking these medications, your appetite will rebound, and your weight will likely do the same. We are hearing horror stories of extreme sickness and massive weight gain post-medication. All that for a result that is fleeting.”
Unfortunately, too many people our dietitians talk to have experienced this happen firsthand. Weight loss with medication is not an effective answer to optimizing your health over the long-term.
“Instead, making realistic changes to your diet and lifestyle with the help of a professional to support you with a program, not just with a prescription, is your key to success.”
The Importance of Consulting a Healthcare Provider
Given the potential risks associated with using Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro for weight loss, it is essential to consult your primary healthcare provider before using them. A healthcare provider can assess your individual health needs and determine whether these drugs are a safe and appropriate option for you.
Suppose you are considering using these drugs for weight loss.
In that case, being honest with your healthcare provider about your health history and any medications or supplements you currently take is vital. This can help your healthcare provider determine whether these drugs are safe for you and whether they may interact with any other medications you are taking.
While weight loss may seem like your number one goal, maintaining and optimizing your health should be a priority, too.
I Got an MD to Approve My Use of Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro
While it is possible for healthcare providers to prescribe medications off-label for weight loss, it is important to note that this practice is not supported by the FDA and may not be safe or effective.
Additionally, Telehealth appointments for the purpose of obtaining a prescription can have limitations, as the provider you are seeing may not have yourfull medical history or complete patient physical examination.
We recommend avoiding these start-ups that are pushing the off-label use of this drug with shady practices and software hacks to get insurance coverage.
You need to seek the advice of YOUR primary care provider to make sure you are doing what is right for you and not just a FaceTime visit for a rubber stamp.
It is always best to seek guidance from a healthcare provider who is familiar with your medical history and can provide personalized recommendations based on your individual health needs.
It is also important to carefully weigh the risks and benefits of any medication before using it for a purpose for which it is not approved and thoroughly evaluated for off-label use.
Frankly, we don’t see how recommending this off-label use of these drugs aligns with the “do no harm” oath physicians take before they enter practice.
We linked it here in case they forgot about it.
But we will gladly say it: This medication abuse is NOT the way to frivolously address weight loss, even in times of desperation, and the MDs should say so too.
Why Are Companies Facilitating the Off-Label Use of These Drugs?
There are several reasons why companies might be facilitating the off-label use of drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro for weight loss.
One major factor, probably THE factor, is the potential for increased profits.
These drugs are FDA-approved for the treatment of diabetes, but there is significant demand for effective weight loss solutions.
Money makes the world go round.
By promoting the off-label use of these drugs for weight loss, companies can tap into a large market and increase their revenue.
But all of the blame isn’t on the MDs or big pharma.
Another reason is the influence of social media and internet forums.
Patients are increasingly turning to online resources for health information and advice. Many people are sharing their experiences using these drugs off-label for weight loss, and some are even selling or sharing their prescriptions with others.
Bottom line: Profits don’t consider your best interests. Just because you see a provider offering this service or your friend is willing to share doesn’t mean you should accept it.
What Could Go Wrong Using This Medication Off-Label?
Off-label use of Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro for weight loss can lead to several potential risks and complications.
These risks can include the following:
1. Hypoglycemia: These drugs are designed to lower blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. When used off-label for weight loss in individuals without diabetes, they can cause dangerously low blood sugar levels, which can lead to symptoms such as shakiness, confusion, and even loss of consciousness.
2. Gastrointestinal side effects: These drugs can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can be severe enough to require medical intervention. These side effects can make it difficult for individuals to stick to their weight loss goals and negatively impact their quality of life. This is particularly harmful to those who already suffer an IBS and should be avoided completely to avoid serious complication.
3. Cardiovascular risks: Even though the FDA approved the specific use of some of these drugs cardiovascular benefit. Some studies have suggested that the off-label use of these drugs may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, particularly in individuals with a history of heart disease. Using these drugs off-label for weight loss in individuals without diabetes or insulin resistance may increase the risk of cardiovascular events.
4. Lack of long-term safety data: While these drugs have been approved for treating diabetes, their long-term safety and effectiveness in individuals without diabetes are poorly understood. Using these drugs off-label for weight loss may result in unknown risks and complications.
5. Drug interactions: These drugs can interact with other medications, including blood thinners and certain antibiotics, increasing the risk of bleeding and other complications.
Alternative Weight Loss Strategies
One of the most heartbreaking things about watching this trend unfold is knowing that the hope, satisfaction, and relief that this drug is bringing to the off label users is temporary, ultimately harmful to maintaining their goals.
We are watching people struggle through the pains of this medication and coming out at the top of the rollercoaster, and the ride down is often worse than where they started.
While Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro may result in rapid weight loss as a side effect, there are many other safe and effective weight loss strategies that individuals can use.
These strategies include:
- A healthy, balanced diet: Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains can help to support weight loss and overall health.
- Regular movement and exercise: Regular exercise can help to support weight loss and improve overall health. This includes walking, running, swimming, or strength training.
- Behavior modification: Changing behaviors that contribute to weight gains, such as overeating or a sedentary lifestyle, can help to support weight loss.
- Medical weight loss programs: Medical weight loss programs, which may include dietary counseling, exercise programs, and medication management, can provide a safe and effective way to support weight loss under the guidance of a healthcare provider.
Say No to Off Label Use of Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro
While Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro have been shown to result in weight loss as a side effect, they are simply not recommended as a weight loss technique for individuals without diabetes or insulin resistance.
In summary, these drugs come with potential risks, including hypoglycemia and gastrointestinal side effects, and their long-term effects on individuals without diabetes are not well understood.
It is important to consult a healthcare provider before using these drugs for weight loss and better yet to just explore alternative weight loss strategies, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and behavior modification.
Medical weight loss programs can also provide a safe and effective way to support weight loss under the guidance of a healthcare provider or other qualified professional.
Ultimately, weight loss should be approached holistically, considering an individual’s unique health needs and lifestyle factors.
By working with a qualified service provider and exploring a range of weight loss strategies, individuals can achieve their weight loss goals safely and effectively, which supports their overall health and well-being.
Taking the Next Steps
This is where you will usually see the sales pitch.
This time, we put out a plea:
- Put down the prescription.
- Find a program with a great Nutrition Education Professional.
- Pick up a new lifestyle.
- Save your health.
Seriously,find a professional that is right for you.
Obviously–we would love it if you came to OnPoint Nutrition to try something new and better for your health.
After serving more than 3,000 individuals, who have come to us desperate and frustrated with fad diets and quick fixes, we know well that the frustration and disappointment have overwhelmed you to the point where taking a pill to drop weight fast seems like such a relief.
We know you want to be healthy and feel better again. We want you to know there is a better way.
If you commit yourself to this path, we know it will lead you to a place of more energy, better health, and ultimately the happiness you are looking for.