By now you’re probably aware of the new weight loss medicines now hitting the market.  These medicines have become so popular so quickly that you probably know someone who is taking one of these medications.  So, what are these new medicines? How do they work? Are they effective? Are they safe? Should you consider taking them and if so, what are your options for obtaining one of these medicines? In this article, I’ll go through these questions and provide up-to-date unbiased answers you can trust. As always, reach out to me directly if you have further questions or if you’d like more information.

What are these new medicines and how do they work?

When we refer to new weight loss medications, we’re usually talking about a group of medicines called GLP1 agonists, aka glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists (There is another group of medications called SGLT2s, but here we will focus on the GLP1s as these are currently the more common class of medicines being used in weight loss treatment). GLP1s are not actually “new” medications, as they have been approved by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) for diabetes management since about 2005. But aside from being effective at controlling blood sugar in diabetes, these agents have proven very effective at inducing weight loss, though often at higher doses.  The GLP1 agonists currently FDA approved for weight loss are semaglutide (brand names Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rebelsus), and liraglutide (brand name Victoza).  Another GLP1 named tirzepatide (brand name Zepbound) was just recently approved by the FDA and triggers an additional receptor, likely making it the most effective in this category of medicines.

The way in which GLP1 agonists cause weight loss is thought to be a combination of effects including increasing insulin release from the pancreas, slowing movement of food through the GI tract, and via an effect on the brain to cause feelings of fullness or satiety.

Are these new medicines effective at causing weight loss?

The short answer is yes. The longer story? I personally believe we are witnessing the beginning of a tremendous shift in how we manage not just obesity, but the many problems that often go hand in hand with obesity, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and heart disease.  We are even seeing some suggestion from early studies that these GLP1 medicines can curb alcohol intake in those with unhealthy levels of alcohol intake.  How much weight should one expect to lose?  While results vary, one can expect to lose 10-30% of their weight.  To put that in perspective, a person weighing 200 pounds can expect to lose 20 to 60 pounds, usually over the course of 6-12 months.  Of course, weight loss results will depend in part on other factors, particularly one’s ability to modify their diet and exercise. It is also important to note that studies have shown that patients tend to regain the weight they lost if they discontinue a GLP1 medication.

Are GLP1 medications safe?

GLP1 medications can cause a variety of side effects, most commonly nausea, constipation, diarrhea, headache, and abdominal pain, but with careful management of dosing, these side effects tend to be temporary and tolerable. These medications have been carefully evaluated by the FDA, have been prescribed for almost 20 years in diabetes management, and are felt to be safe if used as prescribed.

How might someone get a GLP1 agonist?

The best and safest way to obtain these medications is by working with a knowledgeable physician, ideally one with an interest in working closely with patients to complete a thorough evaluation and design a comprehensive weight loss plan that is specific to each patient’s needs.  This plan should include an evaluation to rule out any contraindications to treatment, individualized recommendations for diet and exercise, and close follow-up to track progress and detect any concerns early on.

Unfortunately, some insurance programs are resisting approval of these medications, undoubtedly due to their high cost, which typically runs around $1200 per month.  This has caused many patients to seek other sources, including obtaining medications from local or online compounding pharmacies.  Compounding pharmacies obtain the raw pharmaceutical product from outside sources, and historically this has created concerns about medication purity and safety.  This recent article outlines some of these concerns:  https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/novo-nordisk-finds-compounded-wegovy-up-33-impure-sues-florida-pharmacies-2023-11-30/

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more or think you might be a good candidate for weight loss medications, reach out to me at reMDdirect.  Lets set up a time to discuss your options.

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About the Author

Dr. Michael Duffy

As a Board Certified Family Physician who has practiced medicine for over 20 years, I have held a variety of leadership roles in hospitals and healthcare technology while always maintaining an active clinical practice. Using those many lessons learned, and in an effort to uphold what is best in primary care, I launched reMDdirect, a new Direct Primary Care practice in Twin Falls, Idaho in October of 2023. My focus is to provide a top notch primary care experience that ensures easy access, transparent pricing, and a great patient experience. I am committed to working with patients and employers to empower the individual to understand and manage their health conditions. In this blog section, I will offer current, evidence-based advice on health issues relevant to you so that you may be better involved in your own care. If there is an issue you would like to see addressed, or if you have any questions on a post, please reach out via the “Contact Us” tab at the top of this website, and please feel free to share this info with others and invite them to connect via this website.  At reMDdirect, we are excited to welcome new patients to the practice. Thank you for being part of the reMDdirect family!