If your news feed is anything like ours, dear readers, you’ve probably seen plenty of headlines about Ozempic. This popular medication is part of an emerging class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists that are revolutionizing type 2 diabetes treatment. These drugs can also help people lose weight — and they’re changing the way many health professionals think about, talk about, and treat obesity. Meanwhile, patients are facing big decisions about these medications at a time when they’re so new, even the experts don’t have all the answers.
Sounds like a case for health communicators! So in today’s edition of Health Comm Headlines, we’re looking past the hype to explore how Ozempic and similar drugs are affecting people’s everyday lives. Onto the headlines!
- FDA Approves Zepbound, a New Obesity Drug That Will Take On Wegovy (NPR)
While Ozempic dominated headlines in 2023, pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop even more effective diabetes and weight loss medications. In November of last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Eli Lilly’s new weight loss drug, Zepbound. (It’s already sold as a type 2 diabetes medication under the name Mounjaro.) In clinical trials, people who took Zepbound lost an average of 20% of their body weight — results on par with bariatric surgery.
- Obesity in the Age of Ozempic (Vox)
Over the past decade, conversations about weight stigma, diet culture, and bias in health care have entered the mainstream, slowly shifting long-held assumptions about the relationship between weight and health. With the arrival of Ozempic and other GLP-1 medications, however, a new narrative has taken center stage: Obesity is a chronic health condition that needs to be managed with lifelong treatment. Some people who are taking GLP-1 meds struggle to reconcile these conflicting ideas about weight and figure out the best way to care for their health.
- Supply Problems and Insurance Issues Make Popular Weight-Loss Drugs Hard to Get (AP)
Imagine wondering “Will I be able to get my medicine this time?” every time you need a refill. Due to surging demand, pharmacies can’t keep GLP-1 meds in stock, leaving many people scrambling. Pricing is another barrier: These drugs can cost more than $1,000 per month out of pocket, and some insurance companies won’t cover them (or will only cover them for people with type 2 diabetes). These challenges have sparked ethical debates about who “should” have access to GLP-1 medications. If these drugs are only accessible to people who have certain health insurance plans — or thousands of dollars to spend on meds — health disparities linked to diabetes and obesity may continue to grow.
- We Need to Talk About Teens and Weight-Loss Drugs (Romper)
In 2023, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines for treating childhood obesity, noting that medication can be an effective treatment option for some teens who’ve struggled to lose weight through other methods. The topic of weight loss medication for teens raises complex questions about consent and body autonomy. To add even more complexity, we don’t know how GLP-1 meds may affect people’s health years down the road. Do people who lose weight on these medications really need to continue taking them for the rest of their lives? For many, the long-term plan is unclear.
- How a Canadian Scientist and a Venomous Lizard Helped Pave the Way for Ozempic (Global News)
If you’re not tired of reading about GLP-1 medications yet, join us for this fascinating look back at scientific history. This article chronicles the breakthroughs that led to Ozempic’s development. (Spoiler alert: A Gila monster plays a key role.)
The bottom line: Ozempic and other GLP-1 medications are revolutionizing type 2 diabetes treatment — and changing the way health professionals approach obesity. As health communicators, we can help people make sense of these new medications and make informed decisions.
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