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Why the ‘budget’ Ozempic trend is more dangerous than you think

Off-label usage of injectable semaglutide medications like Ozempic and Wegovy have exponentially grown in popularity. With more and more people seeking them out, they’re also looking for cheaper ‘alternatives’. 

Ozempic and fellow injectable semaglutides are all the rage right now, but it seems misinformation may be to blame. Originally designed to assist patients in managing their Type 2 diabetes, the drug has quickly become entangled in the pursuit of more superficial goals. 

Fuelled by the world’s insatiable hunger for thinness, people across the world are seeking prescriptions for such medications, desperate to experience just one of many side effects associated with the drug: weight loss. As a result, health systems across the world have found themselves unable to keep up with the growing demand, causing worldwide shortages for those who need it most. 

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In a statement released by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) earlier this month, they confirmed “Currently we are asking health professionals to continue limiting Ozempic prescriptions to the TGA-registered indication of the management of type 2 diabetes as there may not be adequate supply to support off-label use for other conditions such as the management of obesity.” 

Regardless, many people in our society so deeply steeped in diet culture are determined to get their hands on the medication. But the off-label usage of semaglutides so popular amongst Hollywood’s elite doesn’t come cheap. 

The steep price, coupled with the scarce availability of the drug, has forced those only seeking the medication for weight loss to look for cheaper alternatives – regardless of the fact they do not have diabetes, or the potential side effects of taking the drug when it’s not medically appropriate. 

But like clockwork, TikTok’s ‘experts’ have entered the chat, flogging an abundance of misinformation to their loyal followers.

So what exactly is this ‘budget Ozempic’?

The ‘alternative’ methods of fast weight loss aren’t quite as simple as reactivating a gym membership or stocking the fridge full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, the old-fashioned means of getting fit just won’t cut it for today’s crowd, who seem far more interested in quick fixes. 

So, as they do for any trending topic, the masses have once again turned to TikTok for guidance.  

Unsurprisingly, it seems the ‘finding cheap options for Ozempic’ movement is being led by a particular sector of TikTok, known as #GutTok (amassing over 1.1 billion views), with a variety of unfounded ‘experts’ weighing on the topic. Whether armed with positive personal experience, or simply a loud set of opinions, creators across the app are dangerously recommending a variety of dieting choices, over-the-counter medications, and supplements to their audiences.  

Laxatives appear to be amongst the most talked about TikTok ‘recommendations’ for weight loss, with claims a daily dose of the medication can mimic the side effects of the notorious injectable drugs.

But, as Dr Michela Sorensen, shares, attempting to achieve weight loss through the use of laxatives introduces several health risks, with the theory lacking any reputable medical evidence to support the claims. 

Why this trend needs to be flushed

Dr Sorensen, a general practitioner and women’s health specialist, explains that sustained and healthy weight loss simply cannot be achieved by gorging on laxatives. Not only is it not an effective method, but it could actually be putting you at serious risk. 

“The majority of the ‘weight loss’ after laxative use is actually due to the loss of water from the body rather than fat,” explains Dr Sorensen. “The issue with the overuse of laxatives is that it can cause dehydration and severe electrolyte and blood sugar imbalances, which can cause damage to not only the gut but potentially be fatal.”

So while laxatives may induce a feeling of weight loss, it is simply your body expelling water. According to Dr Sorensen, the process is only temporary and doesn’t mimic that of the infamous injectibles at all. 

“Ozempic works by increasing insulin levels and reducing glucose release, this balances blood sugar levels and can reduce appetite,” she says. “Laxatives work by either increasing stool volume or stimulating the gut to increase excretion, or both, so, comparing the two is blatantly incorrect and very dangerous.”

The only time the general practitioner would recommend the use of laxatives is when a patient is experiencing prolonged constipation, or if they are already taking medications that increase the risk of constipation. 

And like any medication, regardless of whether you need a prescription to access it or not, your GP or specialist doctor should be consulted prior to taking any. 

So when it comes to weight loss medications or their budget ‘swaps’, the guidance from doctors and the TGA remains the same: do not seek out semaglutides like Ozempic unless prescribed by your doctor for treatment of Type 2 diabetes, and don’t think that taking laxatives every day is going to help either. 

As the TGA states, “The best way for most people to lose weight safely and effectively is by eating a healthy balanced diet and increasing physical activity. 

“A weight-loss product is not a ‘magic bullet’ for losing weight and cannot replace either of these lifestyle changes. Weight-loss products are only intended to support the efforts you are making.” 

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