Many American celebrities have reportedly either taken or are on a prescription medication called Ozempic, though only a few have admitted it so far. Its ‘popularity,’ as a way to lose weight easily via social media, and shortage in the US has triggered a major debate around its use.
The talks around Ozempic have been so widespread that it was even referred to by Jimmy Kimmel at the 2023 Oscars ceremony on 12 March. Kimmel, the event’s host, cracked a joke about its rumoured use among Hollywood’s A-listers.
“Everybody looks so great. When I look around this room, I can’t help but wonder ‘Is Ozempic right for me?’” he said during his opening monologue.
What is Ozempic and why are the celebrities in the US supposedly taking it?
Ozempic is a medicinal drug made by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. The injectable drug has regulatory approval in multiple countries as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.
Ozempic is a brand name; its generic name, or core ingredient, is called semaglutide. According to AFP, semaglutide “binds itself to the receptors of a hormone which controls blood sugar, stimulating the release of insulin when glucose levels are high. It slows down how quickly food leaves a person’s stomach, reducing their appetite.”
A more powerful dosage of semaglutide is sold under the brand name Wegovy and is used for obesity treatment.
While Ozempic can be bought with a simple prescription in several countries, Wegovy has approval only in the US, Europe and the UK. Yet, AFP reports that Wegovy is not on the market in France and the UK, as well as other countries where it has approval.
On 3 March 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported shortages in both Ozempic and Wegovy. The problem, as many have indicated, is the rampant use of semaglutide by those who do not need it.
Novo Nordisk told AFP that “stronger than anticipated demand” for Ozempic had resulted in “intermittent availability and period stock-outs” around the world. The company’s global manufacturing facilities “are now operating 24 hours, seven days a week” to bridge the gap, it added.
The report says that doctors are concerned that the soaring demand from people seeking to lose weight might prevent those with diabetes from getting semaglutide.
Douglas Twenefour, head of care at Diabetes UK, said on the charity’s website that Ozempic “is not a medication for people who do not have diabetes or are at risk of type 2 diabetes.”
Additionally, doctors have pointed out the many side effects of semaglutide, chief of which is nausea. There are also risks of thyroid cancer and acute pancreatitis.
Ozempic and Wegovy aren’t the only two drugs celebrities and people in the US may have been using to reduce weight. American comedian Rosie O’Donnell revealed in a series of videos posted on TikTok on 17 January 2023 that she was taking the drugs named Mounjaro and Repatha and not Ozempic. O’Donnell said she has type 2 diabetes and lost around 4.5 kg since Christmas.
Mounjaro is the brand name of tirzepatide, and it is made by the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Mounjaro is used to treat people with type 2 diabetes. Whereas, Repatha, or evolocumab, is made by the American biotech company Amgen. As per Repatha’s website, the medicine is meant to “lower bad cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart attack.”
However, the conversation around Ozempic is way more widespread. It has been so since 2022 when TikTok “influencers” apparently started talking about their weight loss after using it.
Celebrities who have talked about Ozempic and whether they are using it or not
The Twitter owner, who is very active on his own social media platform, had, in October 2022, responded to a user who asked how Musk appeared “fit, ripped and healthy” in a picture shared by the user.
In his first reply, Musk simply said, “Fasting.”
Almost a day later, he responded once again, saying, “And Wegovy.”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 2, 2022
The acclaimed comedian admitted to having taken the medication unknowingly.
Speaking on Alex Hooper’s podcast Call Her Daddy on 25 January 2023, Handler said, “My anti-aging doctor just hands it out to anybody. I didn’t even know I was on it. She said, ‘If you ever want to drop five pounds, this is good.’”
Handler then recounted a conversation she had with a female friend who informed her that she was taking the semaglutide injections known as Ozempic.
“I’m not on it anymore. That’s too irresponsible. I’m an irresponsible drug user, but I’m not gonna take a diabetic drug. I tried it, and I’m not gonna do that. That’s not for me. That’s not right for me,” Handler said on the podcast, adding, “It’s going to backfire. Something bad is going to happen.”
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Speaking on Amanda Hirsch’s podcast Not Skinny But Not Fat on 10 January 2023, TikTok creator Remi Bader revealed that prediabetes and insulin resistance forced her to take Ozempic.
“[My doctors] said I need this. And I had a lot of mixed feelings,” she said.
Bader recounted how she “gained double the weight back” after stopping the medication in 2020.
“I saw a doctor and they were like, it’s 100 percent because I went on Ozempic. It was making me think I wasn’t hungry for so long, I lost some weight. I didn’t wanna be obsessed with being on it long-term. I was like, I bet the second I got off I’m gonna get starving again. I did, and my binging got so much worse. So then I kind of blamed Ozempic,” she said.
However, Bader added that there are people who actually need the medication but cannot get it. This is because of its unavailability created by privileged people buying it.
“You’re stopping it from even being in the market because there’s not enough for people who need it,” Bader said.
The American businesswoman and reality TV star had in 2022 revealed that she took Ozempic.
In a tweet posted in September, Stanger, who is best known for The Millionaire Matchmaker (2008-2015), responded to a Twitter user wondering about what would happen if people stop taking Ozempic.
“You gain the weight back if you don’t eat clean or drink!! I tried it but it gives you really bad acid reflux! You also must be insulin resistant for it to work!” wrote Stanger.
You gain the weight back if you don’t eat clean or drink!! I tried it but it gives you really bad acid reflux! You also must be insulin resistant for it to work! https://t.co/Rllasyg9nl
— Patti Stanger (@pattistanger) September 23, 2022
Stanger also spoke with The Wall Street Journal later on a story about the prescription drug.
“This is the Hollywood drug. It’s nationwide. I have friends in Miami, I have friends in New York who are doing it,” she said.
In February 2023, she reiterated her struggle with Ozempic on David Yontef’s podcast Behind the Velvet Rope.
“I’m on the shot. I’m gonna tell you the truth. I went on semaglutide, which is the ingredient in Ozempic. I got the worst acid reflux. And I was not feeling good. So, I stopped three weeks in,” she said.
Stanger added that she switched to Mounjaro because of the side effects of Ozempic.
“I’m not diabetic, but I do take a sugar pill twice a day to keep my sugar down. So my doctor recommended it, and she said, ‘I’ll give you the vial of Tirzepatide,’ which is the ingredient,” she said, adding that she does not feel “nauseous like everybody else.”
Golnesa ‘GG’ Gharachedaghi
The star of reality TV show Shahs of Sunset posted a video in February 2023 where she even went on showing how she takes semaglutide injections.
“I had to get a lot of steroid injections last year, which caused me to really pack on some weight. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m 41 years old or I’ve had a baby — whatever it is, I’ve been having a very, very, very hard time getting rid of that weight,” she is heard saying in the video.
“I am on the weight-loss shots, honey, OK. I’m just not going to lie about it because I always keep it real about what is fake,” she added.
Gharachedaghi said that she lost about 4.5 kg in four weeks.
“If you see people out there who just got skinny so fast all of a sudden and claimed they got healthy for the first time in their lives or that they got sober from alcohol that was causing them to gain so much weight … most likely, they’re just doing the shots. We know who you are. We see how skinny y’all are getting. It’s not rocket science. Just saying,” she said.
One of the world’s biggest fashion influencers and a prominent figure in the Kardashian clan, Khloé Kardashian outright denied having taken diabetic medicine to get skinny.
This happened after Kardashian posted pictures of her photoshoot for the cover of Sorbet magazine on her Instagram account in early January.
A user commented, “The fact she uses dibetic [sic] medication to get this skinny is disturbing.”
Kardashian then responded, saying, “Let’s not discredit my years of working out. I get up 5 days a week at 6am to train. Please stop with your assumptions. I guess new year still means mean people.”
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The star of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills attended the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Red Dress Collection concert in New York City on 2 February 2023. Speaking to Extra on the red carpet of the event, Richards addressed rumours about her using Ozempic.
“I cannot stand people saying [I’m taking Ozempic] because people that know me know that I’m up every day at like 5:30 a.m. 6 a.m. at the latest… I’m in the gym for two hours. I really put a lot of effort into my diet and exercise and taking care of myself, so when people like to think I took the easy way out, it’s frustrating,” she said.
This was her second response to the rumour. Richards, on 16 January, commented on an Instagram post by Page Six that she is not a user of the prescription medicine.
In that post, Page Six shared a picture of the actress at the People’s Choice Awards. A user commented, “Ozempic?”
Richards responded to the user, saying, “I am NOT taking Ozempic. Never have.”
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The American TV personality and author wrote a column for Daily Mail in which she revealed that her friends had urged her to take Ozempic weeks after the birth of her second daughter.
“I just had a baby four weeks ago, and you wouldn’t believe what I’m hearing,” wrote McCain in the column on 20 February 2023.
“Yes, I’m fielding all the usual questions: Is she sleeping? Am I sleeping? The answer — obviously — is ‘no.’ But then, I get hit with this: Are you going on Ozempic?” she wrote.
McCain, who is the daughter of late American politician John McCain, added that she has her focus on body positivity.
“Our culture has made incredible strides towards body-type acceptance over the past few decades. And this celebration of Ozempic threatens all of that. I am realistic about how long it takes to have your body feel normal again post-baby. So, don’t rush me!” she wrote.
Fitness trainer and former coach on the reality TV show The Biggest Loser (2004), Michaels told PEOPLE on 17 February 2023 that she has taken “at least eight family friends’ parents off of this drug.”
“They [were] getting heart palpitations, they’re nauseous, they feel like s—t. They feel so awful that it’s motivated them to reverse their type 2 diabetes,” she said.
“Once they get off of the drug, it does the rebound effect. So you’re not gaining anything. You get off the drug in a year and go all the way back. You’ve not learned anything. You’ve not built any physical strength or endurance. You haven’t learned how to eat healthy,” added Michaels.
She said that “Ozempic has some pretty significant side effects.”
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In an Instagram post in January 2023, British actor Jamil commented on the usage of the medication, which she called a “mainstream craze in Hollywood.”
Jamil, who is part of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, wrote, “I have said what I have said about the potential harm of people using the diabetes medication for weight loss only. I fear for everyone in the next few years.”
“Rich people are buying this stuff off the prescription for upwards of 1000 dollars. Actual diabetics are seeing shortages. It’s a now mainstream craze in Hollywood. HOPE this doesn’t end the same way we were told opioids were safe. There is little to no discussion of the side effects in any advertising online. I’m deeply concerned but I can’t change any of your minds because fat phobia has our generation in a chokehold,” she added.
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Jamil added more of her concern in the caption of the post.
“I’m screaming into a void. I’m seeing people really struggle because of this stuff. It has become the exact uncontrollable wave I thought it would become,” she wrote, adding “Wishing you all well and hope you have doctors that care about more than your size.”
(Main and Featured images: Brendan Smialowski/AFP)
This story first appeared in Lifestyle Asia India