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Wegovy vs Ozempic: Which Works Better?
December 20, 2023|Read Time - 4 minutes
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Comparing the effectiveness of popular semaglutide medications Ozempic and Wegovy for diabetes and weight loss.

If you have questions about Wegovy or Ozempic, you’re not alone. These medications, known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, have gained significant popularity in the healthcare field in recent years, particularly as rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes continue to rise in the United States - roughly 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes (about 90-95% percent have type 2 diabetes), and the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. was 41.9% between 2017 and March 2020, a significant increase from 30.5% in 1999-2000.

These uptrends have been a key driver in the booming medical weight management solutions industry, and two of the most talked-about weight loss drugs within this category are Wegovy and Ozempic. This blog post aims to clarify the differences between these medications and help you understand if they’re right for you.

Wegovy vs Ozempic: What’s the difference between them?


Wegovy and Ozempic, which are both manufactured by the company Novo Nordisk, are both brand names for the drug semaglutide. Despite sharing the same active ingredient, they are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for different health conditions. Wegovy is primarily prescribed for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or who are overweight with at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes.

Ozempic, on the other hand, is specifically approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, aiding in blood sugar level control and offering cardiovascular benefits. In addition to helping regulate blood sugar levels, Ozempic allows adults with type 2 diabetes who also have a known heart disease to reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke, or other major cardiovascular events. Although it’s not FDA-approved for weight loss, semaglutide prevents excess hunger caused by low blood sugar, causing you to feel less hungry (and thereby consume less food). For this reason, health care providers are increasingly prescribing Ozempic and other similar medications like liraglutide (Saxenda) and tirzepatide (Mounjaro) as an off-label method of helping patients achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Both Ozempic and Wegovy are both injectable medications. They’re typically prescribed as a once-weekly subcutaneous injection (an injection that is delivered just below the skin) using a pre-filled injection pen. Health care providers will usually prescribe a lower dosage of the medications at first, which will then be titrated (slowly increased) over several weeks to let your body adjust to the medications’ effects.

How do Wegovy and Ozempic work?


Both medications belong to a class of medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, which aid with blood sugar stabilization and appetite reduction. Here’s how:

Blood sugar stabilization: GLP-1 is a naturally-occurring hormone that is released by your body when you eat food; the GLP-1 signals to your pancreas that it’s time to release insulin, a hormone that helps blood sugar (glucose) enter your cells for energy. However, if you have type 2 diabetes, your cells aren’t responding to insulin as they should, which means that blood sugar is not properly absorbed and your blood sugar levels can become too high or too low.

GLP-1 receptor agonist medications resolve this problem by mimicking GLP-1s and telling the pancreas to release more insulin, helping to regulate and stabilize your blood sugar levels. GLP-1s also suppress glucagon, which raises blood sugar levels by promoting the release of glucose from the liver. By reducing glucagon secretion, GLP-1 helps maintain steady blood sugar levels and prevents excessive hunger caused by low blood sugar.

Appetite Reduction: The GLP-1 hormone has receptors in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates hunger and satiety. When GLP-1 binds to these receptors, it sends signals to your brain to decrease your appetite and food cravings. This helps you feel less hungry and more satisfied with smaller meals.

The hormone also slow s down your gastric motility (a term that is used to describe how quickly your intestines move food through your body). By slowing down your gastric emptying, the GLP-1 causes you to feel more full, which then decreases appetite and calorie intake and leads to weight loss.

How effective is Wegovy vs. Ozempic?


Since Wegovy is indicated for weight loss and Ozempic is indicated for type 2 diabetes, comparing the effectiveness of these medications is slightly complex.

Wegovy's safety and effectiveness were tested in four clinical trials involving around 4,500 people who were either obese or overweight. In three of these studies, some participants received Wegovy, while others received a placebo.

In these three studies, a significant number of people who took Wegovy (between 67.4% and 84.8%) lost 5% or more of their body weight over 68 weeks. In contrast, only 30.2% - 47.8% of people who took the placebo were able to lose 5% of their body weight during that same time period. In another study, those who took Wegovy experienced a 7.9% drop in body weight from week 20 to week 68, while those who took a placebo saw a 6.9% reduction during the same period of time.

While impact on type 2 diabetes was the primary focus of Ozempic’s clinical trials, it did have an effect on body weight during clinical trials when administered in higher doses. During these tests, adults with excess weight or obesity were given 2.4 milligrams of semaglutide (Ozempic) or a placebo (accompanied by lifestyle changes) for 68 weeks. The patients who took Ozempic in conjunction with a reduced calorie diet and increased exercise lost 14.9% of their body weight. Individuals who took a placebo lost 2.9% of their body weight on average.

However, it’s important to note that Ozempic is only prescribed in .5 mg, 1 mg, or 2 mg weekly injection dosages (not 2.4mg, as it was during clinical trials). This means that while you can still lose weight with Ozempic, the weight loss will likely not be as drastic as the weight loss experienced by clinical trial participants.

Who is eligible for Wegovy?


Individuals eligible for Wegovy typically have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher (obesity) or a BMI of 27 or higher (overweight) with at least one weight-related condition such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. It's important to note that Wegovy is meant to be used alongside lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.

The most common side effects of Wegovy are gastrointestinal issues that include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn and belching.

More serious side effects may occur, but they are uncommon. Some serious adverse effects of Wegovy use include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Allergic Reactions: Rash, swelling, breathing difficulties
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Gallbladder problems, including gallstones
  • Increased risk of thyroid cancer

Health care providers may avoid prescribing Wegovy for people with:

  • A history of pancreatitis
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Thyroid disorders (like medullary thyroid carcinoma)
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2)
  • Retinopathy (eye problems)
  • Any digestive disorders

If you experience any side effects while taking Wegovy, immediately seek medical attention from a licensed health care provider. You should also avoid Wegovy if you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding; it is unknown if Wegovy can pass into your breast milk, and it has not been studied in pregnant women.

Who is eligible for Ozempic?


Ozempic is prescribed for adults with type 2 diabetes to improve blood sugar control. It is not for treating type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis. Patients using Ozempic may also have associated health conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure.

The most common side effects of Ozempic are gastrointestinal issues that include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation.

Less common but more severe adverse events may include:

  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Vision changes
  • Increased risk of thyroid cancer or tumors
  • Allergic reactions like skin rash, swelling, breathing difficulties

In addition, Ozempic may not be safe for certain individuals with previously diagnosed medical conditions.

Health care providers may avoid prescribing Ozempic for people with:

  • A history of pancreatitis
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Thyroid disorders (like medullary thyroid carcinoma)
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2)
  • Retinopathy (eye problems)
  • Any digestive disorders

Ozempic may not be prescribed to pregnant women, women who are trying to conceive, or women who are breastfeeding.

How much do Wegovy and Ozempic cost?


Generally, both Wegovy and Ozempic are considered premium-priced prescription drugs, but the cost is largely dependent on your insurance status,

If you’re insured, the price of these medications depends on the rates negotiated by your insurer - it’s best to call your insurer directly to understand your coverage and out-of-pocket costs. Without insurance, Ozempic usually costs between $1,020 to $1,200 per month, while Wegovy usually costs between $1,300 to $1,600 per month.

Looking for a prescription for Wegovy or Ozempic? Sesame may be able to help.


To obtain a prescription for either Wegovy or Ozempic, you must consult a licensed healthcare provider; these medications are prescribed to individuals who meet specific medical criteria, and your personal and family medical history must be carefully reviewed before medication is prescribed.

If you’re seeking medical guidance with weight loss, Sesame's online weight loss program. The subscription includes a consultation with a weight loss specialist who can discuss your medical history and weight loss goals. The program also includes a prescription for weight loss medication if deemed clinically appropriate, along with unlimited provider messaging. Please note that all prescriptions, whether obtained through online visits or in-person consultations, are at the discretion of the prescribing provider.


Sources:

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