For Meredith Schorr, a registered nurse, working in the medical field during the coronavirus pandemic, it has taken both a mental and physical toll.
“I wasn’t thinking about how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into my diet, but rather how I’m going to save this person’s life,” Schorr, 25, told “Good Morning America.”
After gaining about 50 pounds, Schorr said she tried tweaking her diet and exercise routine to lose weight. When that didn’t work, Schorr said she sought professional help and saw a nurse who helps weight-loss patients.
Schorr said the nurse recommended she try semaglutide, the active ingredient in drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy.
Semaglutide is a drug that was initially approved for type 2 diabetes, but can now be prescribed for weight loss as well.
“My nurse made it clear to me that this drug shouldn’t just be a crutch you rely on for weight loss,” Schorr said. “You should still improve your health and lifestyle habits, such as improving your exercise and nutrition while using this drug.”
Mounjaro and Ozempic are approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but some doctors prescribe them “off-label” for weight loss. Wegovy is specifically approved for weight loss for obese or overweight people.
The drugs help people make insulin and lower the amount of sugar in their blood, which is why they help manage type 2 diabetes. They also work by slowing the movement of food through the stomach and curbing appetite, thus causing loss of weight.
Schorr said he started taking a weekly injection of semaglutide in February 2022.
While people can get semaglutide under the brand name Ozempic or Wegovy, some people have also accessed the drug through pharmacies that create their own version using the raw ingredients. That’s how Schorr says he got it.
There are risks associated with taking semaglutide via that route, because it can be altered and in many cases where the drugs are coming from is not clear.
Soon after starting semaglutide, Schorr said she experienced side effects such as intense nausea, a common side effect of the drug, along with constipation. But she learned to deal with the side effects and started losing weight soon after starting the treatment.
“Within about two weeks, I had already lost a few pounds,” Schorr said. “Everyone was like, ‘Oh, it already looks like you’re only losing weight the first few days.'”
Schorr said he lost 50 pounds over the course of 11 months. However, she decided to stop taking the drug in January in preparation for trying to get pregnant.
The class of drugs that includes semaglutide are not recommended for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. The Food and Drug Administration says in its safety profiles of drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy they shouldn’t be taken during pregnancy, noting there is “insufficient data.”
MORE: What to Know About the ‘Ozempic Face’ as Some Users Say Diabetes Drugs Used for Weight Loss Leave Them Thin
When Schorr stopped taking semaglutide, she said she started to notice she was gaining weight back, but called the weight gain a “warning bell.”
“I didn’t realize how hungry I was going to get after about five or six weeks of being gone,” Schorr said. “I gained about 10 pounds initially, but it kind of gave me that wake-up call of like, oh yeah, I need to make my own healthy lifestyle habits and all those changes.”
“I just refocused and made sure I was making healthy choices,” she said, describing how she maintained her health after semaglutide.
Schorr said that even with the weight gain she’s been experiencing, semaglutide has changed her life and that she’s sharing her story to help remove some of the drug’s stigma.
In recent months, semaglutide-containing medications have grown in popularity, in part due to reported use by celebrities.
“I definitely look at semaglutide as the way I started my life back to healthy living,” Schorr said. “I’m in a totally different place.”
What to know about weight gain and semaglutide
Medical experts say it’s important to remember that semaglutide is intended as part of a whole approach to wellness that also includes a healthy diet and exercise.
Dr. Louis Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, told “GMA” that rebound weight gain can be common after stopping semaglutide because the drug no longer works in the body.
“Obesity is a chronic disease, just like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” Aronne said. “If you don’t take the medicine regularly, the effect wears off.”
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Dr. Darien Sutton, a medical contributor to ABC News and board-certified emergency medicine physician, said providers may consider several options when prescribing semaglutide to help prevent the weight gain some patients see.
“This drug has led to considerable weight loss, but when it stops, patients have reported gaining back up to two-thirds of that weight,” Sutton said, citing published research. “We ask the question, do we have to change the dose? Does it have to be reduced or do people have to stay on it indefinitely to get that benefit?”
Additionally, Sutton said people both on and off semaglutide need to maintain a healthy wellness routine, including diet, exercise, daily movement, and quality sleep.
Sutton said the success many people have seen using semaglutide is also an important reminder that obesity is a chronic medical condition.
In the United States, obesity is a condition that affects nearly 42 percent of the population and is associated with more than $170 billion in medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 90 percent of the more than 37 million Americans with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, a condition associated with obesity, according to the CDC.
“It brings greater understanding of obesity as a condition rather than an individual or moral failure,” he said. “There are some [people] that despite doing all of this, they may be having difficulty losing weight, and for those, I recommend talking to a provider to review the variety of medications and interventions that might help.”
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