Semaglutide has shown promise as an obesity treatment, causing dramatic and effective weight loss.
But it is a lifelong commitment — those stopping the drug will ultimately put the weight back on.
It should only be taken with a doctor's advice and for a medical reason, an expert said.
Those who lose weight using semaglutide are likely to put it back on if they ever stop taking the drug, research shows.
While the drug is a potential game changer for people who are sick from obesity, it is a lifelong commitment, Francesco Rubino, chair of metabolic surgery at King's College London, told Insider.
"There is no question that if the drug is taken and stopped, it's just a matter of time — and sometimes even short time — where you get back to the weight you started from," he said.
It was first meant as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, but proved to be a powerful tool for the treatment of obesity and weight loss. Recent studies showed that patients taking the drug lost 15% to 20% of their body weight over 68 weeks, Insider's Gabby Landsverk previously reported.
But there is a risk that people start seeing this drug as a quick weight-loss strategy, Rubino said. In his professional opinion, it should only be taken if the weight loss provides a clear medical benefit.
"The question is, do you actually need to lose weight? In general, weight loss is a good thing, but not everybody needs to chase weight loss at all costs or at the cost of taking medication," said Rubino.
Going off the drug will cause weight rebound
Research shows that people who go off of semaglutide will regain most of their original weight.
A study of almost 2,000 adults, published in the peer-reviewed journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism in April 2022, showed that patients who went off the drug regained two-thirds of the lost weight within a year.
The results of that trial can be seen in the graph below.
"You would have to commit to a lifelong taking of this drug, which is something you would contemplate only if the benefits outweigh the risks, as low as this risk could be," Rubino said.
Semaglutide is thought to be generally safe, but it does come with side effects.
Patients often report feeling incredibly nauseated and having diarrhea in the first weeks of treatment, and for some that never really goes away, Rubino said.
As with any drug, it's likely that some people will get uncommon but serious side effects, Rubino said.
Semaglutide is a promising treatment for a medical condition
The risk is worth it if your alternative is a life-threatening disease. For patients with obesity, it makes sense to take semaglutide forever.
It is a common misconception that obesity is only about being overweight and patients need only diet and exercise to get better. Recent research clearly shows that obesity is a chronic disease in its own right.
That means patients with obesity can't just rely on changing their lifestyle to get better — they need treatments to address the life-threatening consequences of their disease.
For those who were sick with obesity, but don't qualify for bariatric surgery, semaglutide provides a lot of hope, Rubino said.
Read the original article on Insider