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Weight Loss Drugs Raise Red Flag For Serious Gastrointestinal Complications

According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, individuals who take popular weight-loss medications like Ozempic or Wegovy may be more likely to develop severe gastrointestinal issues.

According to the researchers, the brief analysis is the first of its kind to indicate a connection between the risk of such gastrointestinal disorders and the usage of such weight-loss medications, known as GLP-1 agonists.

Semaglutide and liraglutide, utilized in the medications Saxenda and Wegovy, are examples of GLP-1 agonists. Both medications are produced by Novo Nordisk.

Weight Loss Drugs And Gastrointestinal Problems

These medications were initially developed to assist Type 2 diabetes patients in managing their blood sugar levels, but it was discovered that they could also help people lose weight. GLP-1 drugs function in part by slowing down the rate at which food passes through the stomach, making users feel fuller for longer.

However, they can also result in gastrointestinal adverse effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain, as demonstrated in clinical trials and mentioned on prescription labels.

Gastrointestinal Problems Due To Weight Loss Drugs

 As the medications’ popularity has increased recently, there have been cases of patients who experienced gastroparesis or stomach paralysis. Novo Nordisk was sued in August over allegations that Ozempic contributed to a woman’s stomach paralysis.

The current study looked at the number of people who developed one of four significant gastrointestinal problems after taking weight-loss drugs: biliary illness, gastroparesis, pancreatitis, or bowel blockages.

It was based on more than 5,000 patients’ health insurance claims submitted in the US between 2006 and 2020. Approximately 4,100 patients were provided liraglutide, 650 patients were prescribed semaglutide, and 600 patients were prescribed bupropion-naltrexone, a weight-loss medication that is not a GLP-1 agent.

Wegovy was only authorized in 2021. However, Ozempic, which was approved in 2017 and contains the same active ingredient as semaglutide, is sometimes used for weight loss off-label.

All of the participants in the research had histories of obesity, but no one had diabetes, which can also result in gastroparesis. The study discovered that those on GLP-1 medications had a higher incidence of pancreatitis, intestinal obstruction, and gastroparesis than those taking bupropion-naltrexone.

The incidence of biliary disease, which encompasses ailments that affect the gallbladder, liver, and bile ducts, was comparable for both drug classes; therefore, there was no increase in risk.

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There are about 5 instances of pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, per 1,000 users of semaglutide and 8 cases per 1,000 users of liraglutide, respectively. Severe abdominal pain is a symptom of the illness, sometimes requiring hospitalization and surgery.

Gastroparesis was reported in roughly 10 cases for every 1,000 people on semaglutide and seven incidences for every 1,000 people taking liraglutide. The illness produces extreme nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain and can be challenging to cure.

When a blockage prevents food or liquids from passing through the intestines, it is known as a bowel obstruction and occurs in 8 cases for every 1,000 people using liraglutide. There were no cases recorded among semaglutide users.

Depending on the severity, surgery can be needed to treat an intestinal obstruction. Because of how frequently the drugs are used, even if 1 million people have prescriptions for them, tens of thousands, or perhaps even hundreds of thousands, may actually feel these effects.

 The risk of pancreatitis, which includes a history of gallstones or previous occurrences of pancreatitis, should also be discussed with patients to help them avoid its risk factors, which include consuming alcohol while taking the drug.

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