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Everything You Need to Know about Ozempic

Duncan Reid: Patient Safety & Professional Services Manager | minute read
weightloss image, man measuring his waist

Ozempic has become fairly well known in recent months, following a media spotlight around celebrities using this medication as a weight loss treatment - but many are unsure of what exactly this drug is, what it is designed to do, and exactly who is eligible for prescription Ozempic in the UK.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a brand name for semaglutide, a GLP-1 analogue which increases the levels of the hormone incretin in the body, helping to increase the rate of insulin production when needed. It also helps to suppress the liver’s production of glucose. 

Side effects of Ozempic include a reduced appetite and a slowing of digestion, which is why there has been a recent uptake in people using it for weight loss. In the UK, Ozempic is not licensed for the purpose of weight loss and is only prescribed to those with type-2 diabetes. 

How does Ozempic work?

Type-2 diabetes causes underproduction or misuse of insulin by the body. Incretin is the hormone that regulates the amount of insulin that is produced and released into the blood after the consumption of food. 

Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic, mimics the action of incretin to boost the pancreas’ production of insulin. This in turn reduces the secretion of glucagon, the hormone that controls blood sugar, and slows down the movement of food through the stomach. 

In those with type-2 diabetes, blood sugar levels are too high which causes an increased risk of serious issues with the feet, heart, eyes and nerves and can present with symptoms like an excessive thirst and need to urinate, as well as increased fatigue. 

To manage blood sugar levels in those with type-2 diabetes and alleviate these symptoms and risks, semaglutide or Ozempic is often prescribed.

How is Ozempic taken?

Ozempic is administered once a week via injection into the upper arm, stomach or thigh at a dose recommended by your healthcare professional. The injection should be administered at the same time each week and can be taken with or without a meal. 

Ozempic is to be administered subcutaneously, meaning under the skin, and should not be injected intravenously (into a vein) or intramuscularly (into muscle).

Side effects of Ozempic

Ozempic can cause side effects in some people. Mild side effects reported by Ozempic users include: 

  • Abdominal pain 

  • Constipation or diarrhoea 

  • Nausea or vomiting 

  • Dizziness 

  • Headache 

  • Fatigue 

  • Flatulence 

  • Soreness at injection site 

In most cases, these side effects are temporary and are easily managed. However, should these side effects be ongoing, Ozempic users should speak to a medical professional.

In certain cases, Ozempic can have more severe side effects such as: 

  • Pancreatitis 

  • Hypoglycemia 

  • Kidney problems

  • Allergic reaction 

  • Gallbladder disease, gallstone or cholecystitis

It’s worth noting that these severe side effects are rare and may affect up to 1 in 1000 people.

Does Ozempic cause weight loss?

Ozempic has been seen to cause weight loss in some users. While there has been increased interest in Ozempic for the way it interacts with body weight, it is not currently licensed for use as a weight loss medication in the UK.

Can you get Ozempic in the UK?

In the UK, Ozempic is only licensed for use in treating type-2 diabetes. Using Ozempic for weight loss has become common in the US, with publicity growing around celebrity use of the drug in 2023. However, there is no sign that Ozepic will be licenced for use in the UK for any purpose other than to treat diagnosed type-2 diabetes.

Ozempic vs Wegovy

Wegovy and Ozempic both contain the same active ingredient, semaglutide. While these two medications are similar, only Wegovy is intended for use in managing weight. Generally, Wegovy has a higher dose of semaglutide than Ozempic, however, the strength of the prescription of either medication can vary from patient to patient. A licensed healthcare professional will recommend a dosage on a case-by-case basis.

Ozempic vs Saxenda

Ozempic and Saxenda are both known for their aid with weight loss globally and Saxenda is licensed for use as a weight loss treatment in the UK. However, the two have different active ingredients. While Ozempic contains the active ingredient semaglutide, Saxenda contains liraglutide. For more detailed insight into Saxenda, you can read our Saxenda guide.

Where can I get Ozempic?

Ozempic is a prescription-only medication for the treatment of type-2 diabetes and is therefore not available for purchase in the UK without a prescription from a healthcare professional. 

If you think that you might need medical support to help reach a weight that’s healthy for you, a weight loss treatment licensed in the UK such as Saxenda or Wegovy could be a better fit - however these treatments are only available via prescription if you meet certain criteria.

If you want to get to know your options, our Online Doctor service offers an easy-to-follow, comprehensive consultation that will help you understand your options, and get independent advice from a qualified GP.