Ozempic and Wegovy weight loss jab UK: has TikTok fueled global shortage of drug - what are the side effects?

The drug was made for people with diabetes, but now it’s in short supply due to people showcasing it on TikTok to help lose weight

An injectable drug which was created to help people with diabetes manage their symptoms and is also used as a weight loss aid has become so popular there’s now a global shortage of it.

The drug, which is called Ozempic and Wegovy, first came to public attention when celebrities in the US including comedian Chelsea Handler, TikTok star Remi Bader and Twitter owner Elon Musk spoke out about using it to help them slim down or maintain a good physique. Since then, the NHS has approved the drug to be available on prescription to help people lose weight in the UK, and videos with the hashtags #Ozempic or #OzempicWeightLoss have a combined one billion two hundred ninety-nine million total views onTikTok as users from around the world talk about using it too.

So, just what exactly are Ozempic and Wegovy, what are people saying about it on TikTok and why is there now a shortage of it? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Ozempic or Wegovy?

Ozempic is a brand name for a drug called semaglutide. Another brand name of the drug is Wegovy. It is an antidiabetic medication used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, and works by helping the pancreas to release the right amount of insulin when blood sugar levels are high. It is also a drug which has been approved to help with weight loss as it imitates the hormone that regulates appetite and helps to create the feeling of fullness. 

People are using a drug called Ozempic or Wegovy, which was created to help people manage their diabetes symptoms, to help them lose weight.People are using a drug called Ozempic or Wegovy, which was created to help people manage their diabetes symptoms, to help them lose weight.
People are using a drug called Ozempic or Wegovy, which was created to help people manage their diabetes symptoms, to help them lose weight.

What are people saying about Ozempic and Wegovy on TikTok?

Thousands of people around the world have taken to TikTok to promote the use of Ozempic for weight loss. One user posted a timelapse video of her weight loss journey and simply encouraged viewers to ‘keep going’ and carry on using the drug because if she did it then they can do it too. Another user posted a video showing her injecting the drug in to her stomach and listed various advantages she has found since using it, including losing over a stone in weight, not wanting to binge eat anymore, finding it easier to control portions, being able to eat a calorie deficit without feeling hungry and being able to better manage her food cravings. In another video, one woman said she had lost 25lb in four weeks and commented that she “loved” the drug as it had helped her “tremendously” and said she’d recommended it to everybody.

What are the side effects of Ozempic and Wegovy?

There are also some videos on TikTok warning people about certain side effects of taking Ozempic. Doctor Gary Motykie, a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, has used his TikTok account to tell people about the possibility of something called Ozempic face, where people may lose a lot of weight on their face which could lead them to look gaunt and tired. Dr Motykie added: “The thing about rapid weight loss of things like Ozempic is whatever happens to your body is also going to happen to your face. So, what they’re saying is that [there’s] a lot of loss of facial fat volume and it’s not necessarily a great look. The other thing with Ozempic weight loss is that it’s rapid and anything that’s too extreme and rapid, whether it’s diets or Ozempic, [means that things] don’t have time to adjust and you end up with loose skin because your body is losing weight way too fast.”

Earlier this year, TikTok star Remi Bader also warned people that taking the drug may not provide the outcome they are hoping for. Speaking on the Not Skinny But Not Fat podcast, she claimed that she gained “double the weight back” after stopping taking Ozempic. Comedian and actress Chelsea Handler also said she didn’t know what the drug was when she was given it by her doctor, but stopped when she realised because she felt nauseous. She added: “I'm not gonna take a diabetic drug. I tried it, and I'm not gonna do that. That's not for me. It's gonna backfire, something bad is gonna happen”. 

The main possible side effects of Ozempic are listed as nausea, diarrhoea, stomach pain and vomiting. The most common side effects of Wegovy also include nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and  stomach pain, along with headache, tiredness, dizziness, bloating, heartburn, and runny nose or sore throat.

Why is there a shortage of Ozempic and Wegovy?

There has been a huge rise in the demand for Ozempic over the last few months due to its popularity with famous faces and social media and, as a result, both Ozempic and Wegovy are now said to be in short supply globally, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Novo Nordisk, the maker of Wegovy and Ozempic also said earlier this year that the low quantity is due both to the increase in demand and supply chain issues, and added that they are working to increase production of both to meet the higher demand. The firm said, however, that keeping supply of the drug stable is “a priority”. This is particularly important for people who want to use it to manage their diabetes.

The European Medicines Agency said in March that the shortages are expected to continue throughout 2023. A spokesperson said: “Ozempic is only indicated for the treatment of adults with insufficiently controlled type 2 diabetes” and added that any other use may endanger the health of those patients, as reported in Bloomberg.