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Wegovy – the Side Effects and Controversy

Recently, the drug Wegovy was approved for use in the UK. Similar to other brand-name semaglutide pharmaceuticals such as Ozempic, Wegovy can be used to treat diabetes. It involves a weekly injection in the stomach, thigh, or arm. It has recently made the news, however, for supposedly being a “game changer” for weight loss, and for being the secret to weight management allegedly used by many Hollywood celebrities.

The reason why the drug is also being used for weight loss is because it results in a decrease in appetite. When it sends the signal to the pancreas to insulin, another effect is that food moves slower through a person’s digestive tract, making them feel fuller for longer.  

Like many bad ideas, using Wegovy and other semaglutide drugs for weight loss has recently been trending on TikTok. Naturally, these pharmaceuticals are promoted as miracle cures rather than flawed interventions that come with serious side effects. Wegovy can cause unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It also comes with more serious side effects, such as pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, and potentially thyroid cancer.

It is almost guaranteed that most people hear all about the positive hype surrounding this drug, and don’t hear about the potential great harms it can cause.

Mainstream news outlets are also willing to air uncritical promotions of Wegovy. In January of this year, CBS’ 60-minutes showed a 13-minute promotion of the drug that was disguised as a “news” segment. The network had received funding from Novo Nordisk, Wegovy’s manufacturer, for this advertisement. The scientists appearing in the Wegovy ad had also received funding from this company, so unsurprisingly they were completely uncritical of the product.

This ad disguised as news was a violation of FDA regulations, as information about the side effects of Wegovy and comparative data about its effectiveness was completely absent. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a non-profit group advocating for evidence-based medicine, has filed a complaint against CBS for their egregious and biased advertisement that was disguised as news.

The aggressive promotion of Wegovy across many forms of media goes along with the trend of using profitable medications with negative side effects to treat chronic diseases instead of diet and lifestyle changes. In mid-January, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released its updated guidelines for treatment of obese children, and recommended weight loss surgery and semaglutide for kids as young as 12 or 13. There are no studies that show the long-term effects of using these treatments on a developing child.

Another way to feel full for longer is through increasing your intake of fiber through eating more whole plant foods. Less than 3% of Americans get the daily recommended amount of fiber, a crucial nutrient for overall health. Fiber acts to protect a body from a variety of different chronic diseases, and replacing high-calorie cheeseburgers with fibrous foods means that a person is eating fewer calories but still feeling satisfied. Yet as always, there isn’t profit to be made in getting people to eat vegetables.

However, there is a lot of profit in weight-loss drugs. Novo Nordisk has the goal of selling $3.72 billion in the sale of such pharmaceuticals by 2025. A month’s supply of the drug currently costs $1,300. It’s a perfect process. Fast food giants profit from making people obese, and then pharmaceutical companies profit from selling them the drugs to treat the illnesses they developed through poor diet. Sickness is far more profitable than health, which explains a lot about our society.


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