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The Ozempic epidemic: Dr Michael Mosley reveals worrying downside of Hollywood's go-to weight-loss medication

Medication with tape measure© Peter Dazeley,Getty
Francesca Shillcock
Senior Features Writer
January 9, 2024
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The health and fitness space is full of buzzwords. Every so often, a new one comes around that piques interest and becomes a talking point of the masses, particularly when it relates to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. In recent months, that buzzword has been Ozempic.

If it sounds familiar, it's likely because it's a term that has been peppered in headlines and news stories regarding well-known celebrities and their health, more specifically, weight loss. Ozempic, which is an approved prescription medication, has been branded "controversial" by some, mainly because of its use by those who don't necessarily need it.

The specifics of the drug, and its efficacy, are not a straightforward case, but what is clear is that its consumption is on the rise. We spoke to The Fast 800 diet creator, Dr. Michael Mosley, to get his expert thoughts and opinions on the subject.

Ozempic Insulin injection pen or insulin cartridge pen for diabetics. Medical equipment for diabetes parients.© Alamy
Ozempic Insulin injection pen or insulin cartridge pen for diabetics. Medical equipment for diabetes parients.

What is Ozempic?

First things first, these are the facts: Ozempic is the brand name of semaglutide which has been approved for use by the NHS and Department of Health for managing blood glucose levels for those living with type 2 diabetes. It can only be prescribed by a doctor.

Last year, HELLO! spoke to Doctor Sohere Roked, a General Practitioner with a specialist interest in integrative medicine, who gave their input into how Ozempic works in practice: "These medications mimic the hormone produced by your digestive system in response to eating food and act on both the brain and the digestive system to regulate how full you feel after a meal."

However, according to the Diabetes UK website, a rise in "off-label" prescriptions, i.e. outside of approved licenses, has resulted in a "knock-on effect for people with type 2 diabetes who are prescribed GLP-1 RAs as supply is not currently meeting demand."

This is one reason why the drug has been labelled "controversial" because it has been used by people solely for weight loss, rather than managing a health condition such as diabetes. This has meant the Department of Health and Social Care has enlisted new guidance for clinicians not to prescribe the drug out of its approved use.

This is where former medical professional-turned-broadcaster Dr. Michael Mosley, who created The Fast 800 programme along with his wife, Dr. Claire Bailey Mosley, comes in…

Dr Michael Mosley speaks at the ICC Sydney on September 16, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. The Centenary Institute Oration is part of the 14th World Congress on Inflammation© Brook Mitchell
Dr Michael Mosley

What does Dr Michael Mosley think?

Michael says he's been looking at the drug for the last 13 years since he first came across it in the lab when it was initially created to treat type 2 diabetes. "I think [the rise of consumption] is going to be inevitable. I think it's one of the first weight loss drugs which seems to be truly effective. [But] they start off with a lot of hype and then the side effects come in and then they turn out not to be such wonderful things as you first thought."

Like a lot of expert opinions around the subject, he's not opposed to Ozempic itself, but the misuse of it which is unsustainable. "I think [Ozempic] is different because it affects the brain as well as the gut.

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"I'm not against it, particularly when it's been used for type 2 diabetics. But I think the worry is that unless you use it as an opportunity to acquire healthier habits, like healthier ways of eating, then either you have to go on and take it for the rest of your life or, yes you're losing weight, but unless you have switched your lifestyle at the same time, then it's unlikely to be terribly healthy."

Michael offered more insight into how what effects it can have if not taken appropriately. "We know, for example, that when you take this drug, you lose quite a lot of muscle along with fat. So there is weight loss, but unfortunately, a lot of it is muscle loss as well, which is why it's important if you're going to take a drug like that, to also have a sort of a program that works with it."

Dr Clare Bailey Mosley and Dr Michael Mosley created the Fast 800 programme
Dr Clare Bailey Mosley and Dr Michael Mosley created the Fast 800 programme

He continued: "Such as The Fast 800, or something where you're doing an exercise regime to maintain your muscle mass at the same time and where you are learning new recipes. Because in the end, it's about learning new ways of eating and enjoying your food."

"I think you need to kind of learn how to eat more healthily. You need recipes. You need menu recipes so that they become second nature, so you can go and grab them. Otherwise, if you're just using a drug, in the end, when you stop taking the drug and you fall back your old ways, then the weight goes back on."

The celebrities who have spoken about Ozempic

One well-known name in the public eye who has spoken about Ozempic and its effects is Sharon Osbourne. The TV star opened up about losing 28lbs through the use of the drug and, during an interview on Good Morning Britain in November 2023, she expressed her regret and concerns about the rise of its use. "I was just fed up of going back and forth with my weight constantly. I thought 'I've tried everything so I thought I might as well try it.' I could do with putting on a few pounds.

"But at this point the way my body is, it's not listening. Ozzy doesn't like it. He thinks something is going to happen to me. It's too good to be true." Sharon then went on to say it should not be used by "teenagers" and that she was now trying to put weight back on.

Sharon Osbourne in a white dress and gold necklace© Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
Sharon Osbourne spoke about Ozempic in recent times

Other stars have spoken out about Ozempic, including Amy Schumer, who revealed that she took the drug but suffered physically as a result. "Like a year ago, I tried it. I was one of those people that felt so sick and couldn't play with my son. I was so skinny and he's throwing a ball at me and [I couldn't]."

Although they didn't diclose whether they had taken it themselves, actor Raven-Symoné summed up the general argument quite succinctly when they spoke to E! News: "I think it's very important we understand certain medications are made for certain people and to not take that away just for glamazon purposes. Do what you gotta do. Just make sure you save some medication for the people that actually need it." 

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