Ozempic is a prescription drug that has been all over the news for the past year. Although it is a type 2 diabetes drug, Ozempic has been widely advertised as a weight loss cure. It has been said to have been used by major celebrities off label as a weight loss drug and has gained so much cultural capital that it has earned itself a name at the Oscars.
You may be less familiar with the name Wegovy, but it is actually the same drug as Ozempic semaglutide and unlike Ozempic, Wegovy AND FDA approved as a weight loss treatment.
Of course, much of the information we get about these drugs comes from social media and celebrity interviews, which aren’t the most reliable sources of fact. Additionally, some online prescription companies are marketing both Wegovy and Ozempic equally, as quick-fix weight-loss drugs. But the truth is, they’re not the same, and it’s important to understand the differences between Wegovy and Ozempic, especially if you’re interested in exploring the drug for yourself.
So we asked doctors to break down the differences and similarities of Wegovy and Ozempic, including what they are, how they’re used, what they’re approved to do, and how much they cost.
Wegovy vs. Ozempic: Similarities
The most important commonality between Wegovy and Ozempic is the main active ingredient. Both drugs are made with semaglutide, a drug used primarily for people with diabetes but which also affects weight.
Since they use the same drug, they work the same way, says Christopher McGowan, MD, a physician board certified in gastroenterology and obesity medicine. They fall into a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, which are often used to treat diabetes, notes the Mayo Clinic.
In people with type 2 diabetes, semaglutide increases the amount of insulin in the body, helping them break down food, Bayo Curry-Winchell, MD, medical director of urgent care and physician at Carbon Health and Saint Mary’s Hospital, previously told POPSUGAR extension.
But GLP-1 also acts on the hunger centers in the hypothalamus to reduce cravings and increase satiety, says Dr. McGowan. “Semaglutide acts directly on the stomach to delay emptying, leading to a prolonged feeling of fullness and satiety,” he explains. In this way, it can help people lose weight.
Wegovy and Ozempic are also both injections. Typically, it’s injected once a week into the stomach, thighs, or upper arms, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Between Wegovy and Ozempic, you may be wondering which one is better for weight loss. According to a 2021 clinical study, semaglutide is more effective for weight loss at dosages of 2.4 mg than 1.0 mg. Wegovy may have an edge as it is taken at a higher dose.
Wegovy vs. Ozempic: Differences
“Ozempic and Wegovy are the same drugs but with different maximum strengths and different labels, packaging, indications, and insurance coverages,” says Dr. McGowan.
The biggest difference between the two drugs is that they contain different strengths of semaglutide and are approved for different things.
The maximum dose of Wegovy is 2.4 mg, but it usually starts at 0.25 mg per week and increases gradually, according to the Wegovy website.
Ozempic has a slightly lower maximum dose of 2.0 mg. It’s also started with a lower dose of 0.25 mg or 0.5 mg per week, according to the Ozempic website.
“Both drugs are slowly increased over a period of three to five months to allow for adjustment to the drug and its potential side effects,” explains Dr. McGowan.
The different dosages mean they are better suited for different things. “Ozempic was approved by the FDA in 2017 for patients with type 2 diabetes,” says Michael Glickman, MD, a family medicine physician and board-certified obesity physician. According to the FDA, Ozempic improves blood sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes. It is designed to be used in conjunction with diet and exercise.
Importantly, Ozempic is not a weight-loss drug and is not approved in the United States for use for weight loss for people without type 2 diabetes. When other medications haven’t controlled blood sugar well enough, Ozempic may be prescribed. , according to the National Library of Medicine. That said, many doctors prescribe it off-label as a weight-loss drug.
Wegovy, on the other hand, is specifically approved for weight loss for adults with a BMI of 30 or greater or those with a BMI of 27 or greater who also have a weight-related medical condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes type 2, or high cholesterol. According to the FDA, people taking Wegovy should also adopt a diet and exercise regimen.
Wegovy versus Ozempic: side effects
Both Ozempic and Wegovy have a variety of possible side effects, and many of them overlap.
“The most common side effects are digestive in nature and are directly related to the mechanism of action,” says Dr. McGowan. “Because semaglutide dramatically delays stomach emptying, food can stay in the stomach for long periods of time.” This can help you feel fuller for longer, but it’s also why digestive symptoms are so common.
The following side effects of semaglutide are the most common:
- Stomach ache
- Stomach ache
Rare side effects can also occur. These include pancreatitis, thyroid cancer, gallbladder disease and kidney injury, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The side effects of Wegovy and Ozempic are nearly identical, but may be more likely with Wegovy since it is available in a higher dosage.
Wegovy vs. Ozempic: Cost
Wegovy will set you back about $1,627 a month before insurance, while Ozempic starts at $950, according to GoodRx. The total cost to individuals, however, will depend on your insurance coverage and whether you are eligible for the savings.
To be covered by the insurance, you must meet all of the eligibility criteria, which means you must have the medical conditions for which each is respectively approved by the FDA.
In other words, “the insurance will only cover Ozempic for patients with diabetes and Wegovy for patients with obesity,” says Dr. McGowan. So when someone is prescribed one of these drugs off-label, meaning they are given it despite not meeting the criteria for use, they will not be eligible for insurance coverage.
Are Wegovy or Ozempic right for you?
Much attention is paid to these drugs, but largely for suspicious reasons. To put it bluntly, there is no such thing as a quick diet cure, and the fact that Wegovy and Ozempic are being touted as such is cause for concern.
In fact, the demand for off-label use of these drugs has grown so much that it’s become difficult for people who really need the drugs to get them, says Dr. McGowan: “This has been a disastrous situation that has put risk the health of patients risk.”
Ultimately, he says, “Ozempic is for patients with type 2 diabetes. Wegovy is for patients with obesity. Nor is it for cosmetic use, short-term use, or for those who just need to shed a few pounds.”
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