For the past couple of years, Ozempic and Wegovy have both been big names in the world of weight loss. From Hollywood shoutouts to endorsements from billionaires and social media influencers, their benefits have been touted far and wide. In fact, Ozempic and Wegovy’s reputation as miracle weight loss drugs has resulted in such high demand that it’s actually caused a worldwide shortage of semaglutide (the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy).
If you’re looking at ways to lose weight and are considering Ozempic or Wegovy, you may be curious what the difference is between the two drugs. After all, they’re produced by the same manufacturer and contain the same active ingredient. Yet the FDA has approved Ozempic and Wegovy for entirely different purposes.
What’s the explanation?
In this post, we’ll take a close look at Ozempic and Wegovy in order to answer this question in depth. We’ll explore both medications and consider which one is actually better for weight loss.
Remember, the information on Bisonpharmacy.com is never intended to constitute or replace medical advice. To decide whether or not an Ozempic or Wegovy prescription may be the right option for your personal circumstances, it’s important to have an in-person conversation with your doctor or medical provider.
What Is Ozempic?
Ozempic (semaglutide) is a brand-name prescription drug manufactured by Novo Nordisk. It was FDA-approved in 2017 for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes and related cardiovascular disease in adults.
Ozempic comes in pre-filled, single-patient-use injectable pens and is administered subcutaneously via a once-weekly injection into the thigh, upper arm, or abdomen.
Ozempic must be refrigerated before being opened and can be stored at room temperature or refrigerated after being opened. After its expiration date, it should be safely discarded.
Ozempic is available in the following dosages:
- 0.25 mg
- 0.5 mg
- 1 mg
- 2 mg
Typically, patients are prescribed a low starting dose of 0.25 mg for their first four weeks on the drug, which is then increased to 0.5 mg. After that, further increases may be made every four weeks up to the maximum therapeutic dose of 2 mg, as recommended by a doctor.
Tapering up Ozempic’s dosage slowly over time allows patients’ bodies to adjust to the drug and can reduce the severity of initial side effects.
What Is Wegovy?
Wegovy (semaglutide) is a brand-name prescription drug manufactured by Novo Nordisk. It was approved by the FDA in 2021 for chronic weight management in adults suffering from obesity or weight-related conditions. In 2022 it was also approved for teens aged 12 and up who have a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for their age and sex.
Wegovy comes in injectable pens that are pre-filled and meant for single-patient use and is injected once a week under the skin (subcutaneously). Injection sites can rotate between the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm.
Before being opened, Wegovy must be refrigerated. After initial use, it can remain refrigerated or be stored at room temperature until it reaches its expiration date. Expired Wegovy must be disposed of promptly and safely.
Wegovy is available in the following dosages:
- 0.25 mg
- 0.5 mg
- 1 mg
- 1.7 mg
- 2.4 mg
In general, Wegovy’s dosage is tapered up over a period of months, similar to Ozempic’s. When patients first start taking Wegovy, they begin at a low, non-therapeutic dose of 0.25 mg per week to allow the body to adjust and build up a tolerance to the drug. Every four weeks the dosage is increased until the maximum dosage of 2.4 mg per week is reached. A doctor will carefully monitor the entire process and make adjustments according to patients’ specific needs.
What Are the Main Differences Between Ozempic and Wegovy?
The three main differences between Ozempic and Wegovy are:
- Dosage – Ozempic’s dosage ranges from 0.25 mg – 2 mg; Wegovy’s dosage ranges from 0.25 mg – 2.4 mg.
- Age Restrictions – Ozempic is approved for adults only; Wegovy is approved for use in teens over age 12 under certain circumstances.
- Approved Uses – Ozempic is approved for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes and related cardiovascular disease; Wegovy is approved for chronic weight management.
How Do Ozempic and Wegovy Work?
Ozempic and Wegovy both belong to the class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. This means that their active ingredient, semaglutide, imitates an incretin hormone known as GLP-1, which is naturally produced in the human gut.
Semaglutide binds to GLP-1 receptors, which target areas of the brain involved in regulating appetite, food intake, and digestion. It plays a key role in stimulating the release of natural pancreatic insulin and reduces the amount of glucose produced in the liver and released into the bloodstream (thus lowering blood sugar levels). Semaglutide also reduces appetite and slows down gastric emptying (the rate at which food is emptied from the stomach into the small intestine) and digestion as a whole.
Which Is Better for Weight Loss: Ozempic or Wegovy?
Between Ozempic and Wegovy, Wegovy is the only drug approved by the FDA for weight loss. It’s indicated for use in obese adults with a BMI over 30 or overweight adults with a BMI over 27 who also suffer from at least one weight-related medical condition. That being said, Ozempic is sometimes also prescribed off-label for weight loss.
Which drug shows the more promising weight loss results? Let’s take a closer look at what the science has to say. But first, a little bit of background:
When Novo Nordisk created Ozempic, it was not meant to be a weight loss drug. Rather, it was meant to be a non-insulin solution for helping adult patients with Type 2 Diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels. As weight loss became a well-documented side effect of taking Ozempic, demand for the drug increased and Novo Nordisk began to run clinical trials to learn more about its impact on weight loss in diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
Perhaps not surprisingly, clinical trial results have shown that greater weight loss is associated with higher doses of semaglutide. Therefore, Wegovy is the better drug option if weight loss is your main goal:
- Non-diabetic adults receiving 2.4 mg of semaglutide weekly along with lifestyle interventions lost an average of 14.9% of their initial body weight over a 68-week period.
- During a 68-week trial, patients with Type 2 Diabetes reduced their body weight by an average of 9.64% with a 2.4 mg weekly dose of semaglutide, but only 6.99% with a 1.0 mg weekly dose of semaglutide.
It’s important to note that, though Ozempic and Wegovy are similar drugs, they are not interchangeable. Always consult your doctor before considering switching medications.
Also important to note is that neither Ozempic nor Wegovy work in isolation. Both drugs must be paired with lifestyle changes, including exercise and healthy food choices, for optimal weight loss results.
Ozempic and Wegovy Side Effects
Because Ozempic and Wegovy are essentially the same drug at different doses, their potential side effects are very similar. That being said, patients may be more likely to experience more side effects (or more intense side effects) when taking Wegovy, simply because it contains a higher dose of semaglutide.
The most common side effects of Ozempic and Wegovy are mild and include:
- Gastrointestinal issues such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation
- Injection site reactions
More serious side effects can include:
- Severe allergic reactions
- Vision changes (Diabetic Retinopathy)
- Gallbladder problems
- Kidney problems
Ozempic and Wegovy have black box warnings about the potential risk of thyroid tumors or thyroid cancer. You shouldn’t take Ozempic or Wegovy if you’re pregnant/breastfeeding or have a personal or family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2) or medullary thyroid cancer.
Do I need a prescription for Ozempic and Wegovy?
Yes. Both Ozempic and Wegovy are prescription drugs. You cannot purchase Ozempic or Wegovy over the counter.
Can I take Ozempic if I don’t have Type 2 Diabetes?
Ozempic is only indicated for patients with Type 2 Diabetes. However, your doctor may choose to prescribe you Ozempic off-label if they believe it will be the right option for your health.
What happens if I stop taking Ozempic or Wegovy for weight loss?
Most people gain back the vast majority of the weight they’ve lost when they stop taking Ozempic or Wegovy. Ozempic and Wegovy are meant to be long-term medications.
To conclude, Ozempic and Wegovy are similar prescription medications that are indicated to treat different conditions. While Ozempic treats adults with Type 2 Diabetes, Wegovy treats adults and teenagers with obesity or weight-related health conditions.
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About the Author
Ida Edlweiss Gumpal is a licensed Pharmacist and medical writer. She took her internships at Mercury Drug Corporation, Inc., a Hospital internship at De Vera Medical Center, Inc., and a Manufacturing internship at Philmed Laboratories, Inc. She has plans on attending medical school with the goal of specializing in Neurosurgery or Cardiothoracic surgery.