Popular celebrity weight loss drugs Wegovy and Ozempic may have a serious side effect, according to researchers in China.
In a study to appear in the monthly journal Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B, researchers believe there is an “increased risk” of intestinal obstruction when taking these drugs.
The drugs are composed of the peptide semaglutide, a derivative of GLP-1, a hormone produced in the small intestine.
This is the hormone that semaglutide mimics and makes you feel fuller for longer by slowing down digestion, leading to weight loss.
Although this drug may be useful in treating diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes by lowering a person’s glucose levels and promoting weight loss, concerns have been raised about a potential unwanted side effect.
“Although their efficacy and safety profiles are widely accepted, long-term side effects such as an increased risk of intestinal obstruction have been reported in patients with diabetes that were 4.5 times higher than those receiving other glucose control drugs,” the researchers write about the drug.
“A real-world study of 25,617 subjects demonstrated a 3.5-fold increase in the incidence of intestinal obstruction associated with GLP-1RA treatment,” the researchers noted.
The Post has reached out to the drug’s maker, Novo Norodisk, for comment.
The scientists also cited two studies in their research that showed a link between GLP-1 and gut problems — one published in 2020 and the other in 2022.
However, they were observational in nature and could not confirm a direct link.
An intestinal obstruction occurs when there is a blockage that prevents food or liquid from moving through the small or large intestine, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If left untreated, it can lead to the death of those parts of the intestine that have been blocked and can lead to an infection called peritonitis.
The infection is classified as a life-threatening condition that often requires surgery, according to the organization.
In their letter, they explain that in their own observations of rats that received the drug, they had an average 43% increase in the length of the small intestine after 3 months of treatment with GLP-1b drugs, noting that clinical trials for Wegovy tested only this for 16 months.
They also noted that clinical trials that have been done on humans have not shown the same changes in our gut.
The researchers explained that it can be difficult to determine the length of the small intestine in adults and that constipation, a symptom of intestinal obstruction, is also the same symptom as slower digestion, an effect the drug has.
However, independent experts who were not involved in the research told the Daily Mail that “the drug should be safe for most” and argued that before doctors prescribe the drug to their patients, they should review a person’s bowel history.
The popular drug is given by injection once a week, which patients can give themselves. The maximum dose for Wegovy is 2.4 milligrams.
In recent months, the weight-loss drug has taken Hollywood by storm, as many stars have admitted to taking it at one point or another, including comedian Chelsea Handler, who claimed she “didn’t know” she was taking Ozempic.
She claims her doctor just “hands it out” to everyone.
“I came back from vacation and injected myself with it. I went to lunch with a friend a few days later and she said, “I don’t really eat anything. I’m so sick, I’m on Ozempic,’” she recalled during a Jan. 25 appearance on the “Call Her Daddy” podcast.
“And I was like, ‘I feel sick too.’ But I had just returned from Spain and was suffering from jet lag,” she continued.
Twitter owner Elon Musk also admitted to using Wegovy last fall.