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Me, Myself, as Mommy: Weight-loss drugs – Unnecessary magic pill or life changer?

By Meg Sanders - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jun 14, 2024

David J. Phillip, Associated Press

The injectable drug Ozempic is shown Saturday, July 1, 2023, in Houston. Even as millions of older adults clamor for drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy, monthly use of the medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists soared nearly 600% between 2020 and 2023 in people under 25 — and as young as 12.

Summer is like drinking from a fire hose. We're packing every bucket list experience in these few short -- very short -- months. Break begins with me asking kids what they want to accomplish or experience this summer. Camping, swimming, sleeping, summer camp and Lava Hot Springs are always at the top. They also take lessons to see if they'd like to acquire a certain skill. Benson tried guitar; nope. Scarlett did ballet; nope. Bodie tried his hand at climbing; nope. This year, Bodie, my 11-year-old, wanted to take voice lessons like his sister. When I asked him to sing me a song, I was surprised, to say the least, at what sprung forth. "Oh-oh-Ozempic," was the little tune he belted, with the big finish of "Ozempic isn't for people with Type 1 diabetes," mumbled under his breath as is required in any medication commercial.

Cleary, he's paying attention while I blast "Good Morning America" each morning as I get ready. When it's not commercials for Ozempic, it's Wegovy, Mounjaro or Rybelsus, each now becoming a part of the millennial zeitgeist. A recent "South Park" special, "The End of Obesity," took aim at the so-called weight-loss drugs as infamous character Eric Cartman searches for access to Ozempic. Cartman's doctor informs his mother he needs this medication to survive, but due to its cost, they look for other options to lose weight. From there, it's discovered several of the town's mothers are using Ozempic to keep off added weight, creating a medication shortage.

While not a "South Park" fan, the commentary on today's cultural relationship with weight, worth and wealth is not lost on me, showcasing why this episode is labeled a special. From the standpoint of anecdotal evidence, I have a handful of friends openly using semaglutide and a handful of friends who are covertly using a form of semaglutide. Shame is often paired with these weight-loss drugs, although I question if it goes back to the argument of wealth. Many wish they could afford these drugs, as insurance often does not cover their use. The majority of people I know using Ozempic or Wegovy see it as a great resource for them to get their health back in order, not the often-seen celebrity usage of trying to drop 10 pounds to be red-carpet ready.

My physician assistant, who is usually very conservative about what we put in our body, is very supportive of prescribing these medications to overweight patients. She called them a "game changer" in how she treats those with high A1C, weight and a Type 2 diagnosis. From my own experience, I've witnessed a friend completely change her life using Ozempic in tandem with changed eating habits. It's as if this medication was the defibrillator to jumpstart her motivation and hope. I watched her discuss food choices with her spouse, looking up the proteins, carbs, calories and proportion size. Mindfulness is a new habit. While she looked great before and her value was immeasurable, she feels better with more energy. The drug worked for her because she didn't solely rely on it to reach her goals.

On the flip side, these drugs have not been an option for another friend, who is yet to find a combination that doesn't leave her with crippling nausea and gastrointestinal issues. It's not a failure on any level, just a new direction in getting certain health issues in check. But as she put it, "It's one less tool to help me get back on track."

Photo supplied

Meg Sanders

There are so many positives for these drugs with a side effect of weight loss. Users find improved blood sugar levels, appetite control and the reduced risks of cardiac events. Many doctors agree Ozempic should be prescribed for adults with Type 2 diabetes or folks classified as obese or with a high body mass index. I write "many" because other medical professionals prescribe the medication to those who only want to drop a few pounds. These people can often get a prescription through medical spas with a doctor on staff. That's when wealth comes into play, as it won't often be covered by insurance. Being a ferocious "Real Housewives" fan, I believe most of those women are utilizing weight loss drugs not because of the above issues, but vanity. According to Poison Control, Los Angeles saw dozens of citizens overdosing on semaglutide. (If I were to pick a place where one would OD on weight-loss drugs, it would be LA.) More than 4 million prescriptions for semaglutide are floating around the country, leaving a lot of room for operator error. There were nearly 3,000 semaglutide ODs nationwide from January to November 2023.

On a personal level, I have lost more than 40 pounds in the last two years. I layered on the pounds through a strict regimen of depression, anxiety, cheese and pandemic. I started out with lifting weights, which motivated me to walk, pushing me to run, all done ironically while watching "The Real Housewives." While I didn't need semaglutide, I understand why this drug is a miracle to millions on the same health journey as myself. Dropping the weight was a slow, arduous process, although the self-esteem payoff was immediate. Often described as controversial, these semaglutide drugs -- appropriately prescribed -- are a powerful tool to keep loved ones alive and healthy. This explains the rapid popularity of Ozempic and Wegovy.

If the selling point of weight loss, blood sugar control and reduced rate of a heart attack isn't enough to get the medication of the ground, a revamped version of a 1970s hit certainly will do the trick. Thanks to Ozempic, rock band Pilot's song "Magic" is on everyone's mind yet again. I know my 11-year-old has it on repeat with a slight change of lyrics.

Meg Sanders worked in broadcast journalism for over a decade but has since turned her life around to stay closer to home in Ogden. Her three children keep her indentured as a taxi driver, stylist and sanitation worker. In her free time, she likes to read, write, lift weights and go to concerts with her husband of 18 years.

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