Wegovy (semaglutide) and Ozempic (semaglutide) are two prescription weight-loss medications that are cut from the same cloth. Both medications belong to the same class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, and they work by mimicking the action of the hormone GLP-1, which regulates glucose metabolism and appetite. Despite their similarities, they are not interchangeable. There are differences between Wegovy and Ozempic that patients and healthcare providers should be aware of. In this blog post, we will compare and contrast the two medications to help you make an informed decision about which one may be right for you.
As mentioned above, both of these medications are the same type of GLP-1 agonist called semaglutide. It works by mimicking the action of the hormone GLP-1, which is naturally produced in the body and regulates glucose metabolism and appetite. When semaglutide is administered, it binds to and activates GLP-1 receptors in various organs, including the pancreas, stomach, and brain. This leads to several physiological effects that can help with weight loss and the management of type 2 diabetes.
Firstly, semaglutide stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas, which helps to lower blood glucose levels. This is particularly beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes who have insufficient insulin production or insulin resistance. In addition, semaglutide slows down the rate at which food is digested and absorbed in the stomach, which can help to reduce feelings of hunger and increase feelings of fullness. This can lead to a decrease in calorie intake and subsequent weight loss.
Wegovy and Ozempic are both administered as weekly pen injections. They are usually both started at a low dose of 0.25mg however, Wegovy can be given at a maximum dose of 2.4mg per week, while Ozempic has a maximum dose of 2.0mg for the management of obesity. Both are currently approved for weight loss by the FDA.
The GLP-1 agonist, semaglutide, has already shown efficacy in managing weight loss for non-diabetic patients struggling with obesity. The STEP 1 trial that was published in 2021 showed that weekly semaglutide injections at a dose of 2.4 mg in combination with a calorie restriction diet and 150 minutes of exercise per week showed a 15% reduction in body weight after a 68-week period of time. This was significantly different from the placebo group. They also noticed benefits for cardiometabolic risk factors such as waist circumference, BMI, and blood pressure.
Since these medications are the same type of GLP-1 agonists, their efficacy is the same.
Both Wegovy and Ozempic can cause similar side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. However, because they are injected with medications, they can also cause injection site reactions such as redness, swelling, and itching.
Wegovy may also cause more serious side effects, such as pancreatitis and thyroid cancer. However, the risk of these side effects is low and should be weighed against the potential benefits of the medication.
Ozempic may also increase the risk of a rare but serious side effect called diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness. This risk is thought to be related to the lowering of blood glucose levels, which can affect blood vessels in the eye. However, this risk is also thought to be very low and should be weighed against the potential benefits of the medication.
You should avoid both of these medications if you have a medical history of medullary thyroid cancer or a family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia cancer syndrome type 2 (MEN-2).
The cost of Wegovy and Ozempic can vary depending on factors such as insurance coverage and location. As of now, Ozempic is not approved for weight loss, while Wegovy is. This may make it more difficult to find coverage for Ozempic. However, if you are a diabetic, then you may find coverage through your insurance plan.
As of March 2023, the average retail price of Wegovy is approximately $1,400 per month, while the average retail price of Ozempic is approximately $900 per month.
It is important to check with your insurance provider to see if either medication is covered, as well as any potential out-of-pocket costs.
Ultimately, Wegovy and Ozempic are the same medication just given at different doses. Since Wegovy is approved for weight loss and Ozempic is not, there may be differences in what is covered by your insurance plan. It is also important to note that these medications should be given in conjunction with diet and exercise in order to achieve maximum benefits. Notify your provider if you have any contraindications that we mentioned in the side effects section.
If you would like to learn more about GLP-1 medications or want to see if you might be eligible for medication-assisted weight loss, check out Mochi Health, where board-certified obesity medicine physicians can offer expertise in this realm!
Dr. Constantine Joseph Pella, MD
Boston University Medical Center