The FDA’s recent approval of tirzepatide as a weight loss drug positions it as a direct competitor to the widely embraced Wegovy. According to the F.D.A., patients who used tirzepatide lost an average of 18% of their body weight, while Wegovy produced an average of 15%. Other medications — such as Ozempic, Trulicity and Rybelsus — also have off label uses for weight loss. That said, the significance of these medications extends beyond mere aesthetics, delving into the realm of chronic health conditions associated with obesity. Diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, liver disease, kidney disease, and joint pain are all intricately linked to excess weight. Given that more than 2 billion adults are classified as overweight or obese, the urgency to find solutions becomes paramount.
Recently I was interviewed by Univision for a segment on the use of weight loss injections. One of the major concerns that I expressed is that these medications are not reaching the patients who ought to have them — those with diabetes and other co-morbidities. Individuals that have the money and desire to lose weight are rushing to buy these medications, thereby depleting the supply chain for those that truly need them for medical use.
We live in a world where everyone is looking for a wonder drug that will provide quick and lasting results. While these medications provide rapid weight loss, they are not the entire answer. Maintaining a healthy weight is a life-long commitment that includes behavioral and lifestyle changes, as well as the acceptance that our own genetics play a major role in determining what is good for each of us. Moreover, as with any medication these injections have potential serious health impacts for some people.
Many of us recall that a few decades ago Fen-Fen was being touted as the weight loss magic pill. It was also widely distributed outside of official channels without physician supervision. In 1997, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 85 people had developed heart valve disease as a result of taking it. That same year, following more than 10,000 civil cases, Fen-Fen was removed from the market. This historical perspective serves as a stark reminder of the need to approach weight loss medications without the expectation of a quick fix and to avert the perception of them as miracle cures.
Today, the use of compounded drugs raise valid questions, especially in light of the FDA’s recent warnings. Reports of adverse events and the use of salt forms like semaglutide sodium and semaglutide acetate deviating from the approved drugs add layers to the ongoing dialogue on medication safety.
Obesity is a chronic condition, a point often overlooked in the quest for rapid results. These medications are not meant to be one-time solutions. Patients need to incorporate them into their lives indefinitely to sustain weight loss, underscoring the importance of a long-term commitment to managing obesity.
Of equal importance is obtaining these injections through licensed healthcare providers and reputable pharmacies, steering clear of unregulated sources that pose potential risks. The FDA’s vigilance in monitoring the internet for fraudulent or unapproved products is a crucial reminder for patients to exercise caution when purchasing medications online.
These tools, when used thoughtfully, may contribute to the journey toward sustained health and well-being. By decoding the truths and navigating the FDA’s approval landscape, we empower patients and healthcare professionals alike to make informed decisions on their path to healthier living.
To watch the full Univision segment, click here
About Eneida Roldan: Eneida is a dynamic physician leader, a vibrant teacher and mentor, and a dedicated board member with service on an array of for-profit and not-for-profit boards. She has held executive positions in a full range of health care settings, including private and public hospitals, academic medical centers, and entrepreneurial medicine in the field of wellness and health promotion. She is passionate about advocating for diverse women in leadership positions and providing strategic solutions to improve business efficiency and effectiveness, while ensuring inclusive healthcare to all. She was instrumental in providing crisis management throughout the pandemic to the Miami community.
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