Weight watchers on Ozempic and other versions of the drug are causing an increase in emergency room visits, experts warn.
Some doctors say they are seeing an increase in the number of patients on Ozempic and Wegovy going to hospitals with severe diarrhea, bloating and nausea – the three side effects associated with the fat loss injection.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also sounded the alarm over a rise in risky counterfeit versions of the drug, which are being sold by rogue pharmacies taking in huge demand for the treatment.
Warning about rising drug-related admissions, an ER doctor – who goes by the Twitter handle @thatERguy – wrote on Twitter: ‘The number of people coming to the emergency room for Ozempic side effects.’
Some doctors say they are seeing more patients on the drug – taken as a weekly injection – in hospitals than ever before (stock image)
They added, describing the reasons for the admissions: “Diarrhea. Nausea. Bloating.’
Social media was also inundated with users claiming they got so sick after taking the drugs that they ended up in hospital.
Among them was Joy McClellan of Arizona, who said she was “nearly killed” by a counterfeit version of Ozempic.
“Two trips to the emergency room and six days in the hospital. I’m lucky I’m not dead, but someone will,’ she wrote online.
In another US-based case, Twitter user Joshua Schiff said a close family member was hospitalized within two weeks of taking semaglutide with severe pancreatitis – a painful inflammation of the pancreas.
“The hospitalization lasted six days and cost them a $30,000 hospital bill and (possible) long-term damage to their pancreas.”
They added, “Be careful with this stuff.”
And in a third case revealed online, another US-based person said just two injections of semaglutide led to her husband being admitted to hospital with a ‘gallstone attack’.
‘[It was his] the worst ever and almost needed surgery – a very high risk for him,’ they added.
In late May, the FDA also warned of increased reports of side effects in people taking the drug – which had likely been reported by medical centers.
They linked the rise to “compound” or cocktail versions of the drug.
These become available when pharmacies start making their own versions because they don’t have enough supply to meet prescriptions.
In their statement, the agency said, “The FDA has received reports of adverse events after patients used the compound semaglutide.”
Asked about the rise today, an FDA spokeswoman said, “The agency continues to evaluate submitted reports to validate and assess any trends in safety with formulations composed of semaglutide.”
Dr. Laurie Keefer, health psychologist at New York-based Mount Sinai, previously said CBS News that she had seen an increase in the number of patients on Ozempic entering the hospital.
She said they were later diagnosed with gallstones or kidney failure.
More than eight in ten people on semaglutide – the drug behind Ozempic and Wegovy – suffer side effects during treatment, according to its clinical trial of 2,000 obese adults with results published in 2021.
These tended to be “mild to moderate” in severity, the document notes – and included issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, constipation and nausea.
But nearly one in ten patients also faced serious side effects, which in some cases led them to discontinue use of the drug.
This included the emergence of a gallbladder-related disorder – such as gallstones – or pancreatitis.
No figures were provided on the number of patients who visited the emergency room or were hospitalized overnight due to side effects.
Since the study, other side effects have surfaced, including muscle loss, being repelled by your favorite foods, and even bizarre dreams.
Prescriptions for the drugs have soared more than 2,000% in just three years, from 230,000 a year in 2019 to more than five million last year alone – and are expected to continue to rise.
The drug is a GLP-1 receptor, which triggers hormones in the brain that keep the stomach full and tell the body to stop eating and avoid cravings.
Doctors had to start rationing Ozempic in May after its popularity as a weight-loss drug led to widespread shortages across the country.
Their popularity has caused delays in getting drugs to pharmacies across the country, leading many people to start mixing their own versions.
Novo Nordisk, which is behind Ozempic and Wegovy, has been contacted for comment.