Ozempic has arrived in the UK: What you should know about the Hollywood ‘skinny jab’

You can literally buy it in Boots

Fasting, drinking coffee, popping appetite suppressant pills, sucking on “flat tummy” lollipops: Get thin-quick strategies are everywhere. Diet culture is dark. Inescapable. And now a new perfect body product has arrived in the UK via the shelves of Boots: Semaglutide.

Known by the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy, Semaglutide has been gaining popularity on TikTok (#Ozempic currently has 769.7million views) since the Daily Mail and VICE reported Kim Kardashian had used the drug to speedily and scarily slim into her Met Gala Marylin Monroe dress last May.

Considered one of Hollywood’s “best kept” diet secrets, comedian Chelsea Handler, Shahs Of Sunset’s Golnesa GG Gharachedaghi and even Elon Musk have all admitted to staying skinny using the “miracle” obesity drug, which functions by stimulating insulin and regulating blood sugar. Both Khloe Kardashian and Julia Fox have denied accusations they’re using.

GPs in England will start offering Semaglutide to some patients through a two-year £40m pilot scheme the Prime Minister hopes will help tackle obesity. So, as Google searches for “Wegovy results”, “weight loss injections” and “how long does it take for Wegovy to work” explode, The Tab spoke to experts about the diabetes drug re-surging the 00’s depressing obsession with thinness both in the showbiz world and on social media:

It’s scarily easy to get

Semaglutide was never intended to be accessible to everyone. Originally, Ozempic was designed as a drug for diabetics, while the variation of the drug coming to UK shelves, Wegovy, has been marketed as a weight loss tool. But, even then, you’re meant to meet a certain weight in order to be eligible.

But currently, all you have to do to access Wegovy, which claims to help people lose “15 per cent of their weight in a year” through regulated appetite and reduced cravings, is fill in an online health questionnaire on Boots’ website.

“Vetting processes aren’t stringent enough,” says physician and epidemiologist Dr. Nsisong Asanga. “People have been able to access the drugs without meeting the weight criteria [a BMI of 30] or getting a prescription [soon available on the NHS].”

Semaglutide has side-effects

According to the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) common Ozempic and Wegovy side effects include decreased appetite, constipation, diarrhoea, dizziness, tiredness, stomach pain, low blood glucose, nausea, vomiting and, of course, weight loss. Meanwhile, acute pancreatitis and altered tastes are also a possibility.

“Bloating, excess gas, nausea, vomiting and yellowing of the eyes and skin – also known as jaundice, come with taking the medication while more major rarer side effects include anaphylactic reactions,” says Superintendent Pharmacist at Click Pharmacy Jana Abelovska.

“Ozempic and Wegovy are new drugs, so we don’t know enough about them and how they can affect your health in the long run,” warns Dr. Nsisong. “There’s no evidence that you can get addicted for now. But these are new drugs. So, we’re still studying them.”

Wegovy is likely to be advertised everywhere

Outrage exploded on Twitter and Instagram after adverts for Wegovy were plastered across Times Square subways in New York. And, considering Wegovy’s main selling point is weight loss, similar marketing campaigns are likely to be rolled out in the UK. It’s like the 2015 “beach body ready” banned advert all over again.

In floor-to-ceiling adverts plastered across stairs, walls, and columns in NY, Wegovy was advertised to commuters as “a weekly shot to lose weight,” alongside pictures of people injecting their arms and stomachs, adding: “lose weight with Wegovy”.

“It could be said that the publicity of celebrities using the drug for weight-loss, it could lead to an unhealthy beauty standard and put pressure on people to follow the slimming trend,” says Jana, while eating disorder charity Beat took a clearer stance:

“Weight loss medications like Ozempic are often seen as a ‘quick fix’ solution for losing weight, however these medications can have very serious health risks for those with eating disorders,” Beat’s Director of External Affairs, Tom Quinn said. “We know that weight loss injections can exacerbate eating disorder thoughts and behaviours such as guilt, restriction and binge eating, or can contribute to an eating disorder developing for the first time.

“Diet culture often promotes the benefits of weight loss injections, but there is very little education on the dangers.”

It costs a lot of money and won’t work when you stop

In the UK, the average cost for a month of Semaglutide treatment is £150 and if you stop paying to take the drug, the weight loss stops, too. “It’s been said that after taking the drug, the patient will return to their normal appetite which could lead to the risk of putting weight back on after treatment. The drug is not a permanent slimmer,” says pharmacist Jana.

“A study found that in one year after stopping the medication, people regained most of the lost weight,” adds Dr Nsisong. “And more sadly, they also lost any metabolic or cardiovascular benefits too. So preliminary evidence suggests this is likely to be a lifelong treatment if the benefits are to be retained.”

“As long as I looked good, I could’ve died”

Essentially, Semaglutide, aka Ozempic, Wegovy, or whichever brand next opts to adopt the drug, causes quick, unsustainable weight loss. And the fact there have been 769.7million views on videos about the drug on TikTok shows we’re still worryingly susceptible to advertising and celebrity content that targets our weight-related insecurities. It’s manipulative and scary.

As Charli Howard put it: “As anyone with an insane eating disorder will tell you, I was beyond caring about the possible dangers of unprescribed medication. As long as I looked “good”, I could’ve died or ended up in hospital and wouldn’t have cared.”

Featured image credit via Instagram 

Related articles recommended by this writer:

How the cost of living crisis is secretly fuelling an eating disorder epidemic

• Men are struggling to get treated for their eating disorders and no one is talking about it

• My anorexia nearly stole my life from me, but I’m still here fighting five years later