By Cree-Summer Haughton, ITV News’ Here’s The Story
British doctors have voiced growing concerns an online rush for so-called ‘weight loss wonder drugs’ is a “genuine threat to patient safety”.
Drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy have been trending on social media platforms with claims of being wonder cures for weight loss. Originally used to treat diabetes, these drugs have gained attention recently due to reports celebrities such as Kim Kardashian have taken them to lose weight in a short amount of time.
Ozempic and Wegovy are brand names for a drug called Semaglutide, an antidiabetic medication used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and, increasingly, long-term weight management.
One of the brands of Semaglutide, Wegovy, has recently been approved by the NHS to combat weight loss and is administered as an injection into the stomach. Semaglutide works to lower high blood sugar by increasing the amount of insulin that is released in the body, lowering the amount of glucagon released. Among the side effects of the drug can be loss of appetite.
The NHS approved it after studies, including The New England Journal of Medicine, showed Semaglutide to be a safe method for weight control.
According to Lloyds Pharmacy, the recommendation states it should only be prescribed to adults who have a BMI of at least 30 and above or 25 and above with a weight-related health condition.
However, because not everyone’s entitled to an NHS prescription, increasing numbers of users are turning to websites to get the drug under any brand name, including Ozempic. This has prompted concerns among health officials in the UK.
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It’s a genuine threat to a patient’s safety if they are taking prescription drugs that they have bought online without a prescription, from a qualified medical professional. It’s even more worrying if those drugs are being used for purposes that they are not intended to be used for.
“GPs and other prescribers in the community are highly trained to take into account physical, psychological and social factors when treating a patient, and will only prescribe drugs if it suits the unique health needs of the person sitting in front of them.
“They will also be able to ensure that the drugs work safely in combination with other medications that the patient may be using.
Professor Hawthorne also warned that online customers have no way of verifying what they are buying or taking.
“We would urge patients to consider the implications of buying drugs online using unverified websites – there is no way of knowing what they are buying is what they think it is, and this can have serious consequences for their health.
“If a patient thinks they need medication, we would advise them to seek the help of a healthcare professional, such as a GP or pharmacist, who can advise on the best course of treatment if it’s necessary.”
Drugs prescribed on the NHS are accompanied by added support and advice from medical experts and without that, the effectiveness of taking them are called into question.
ITV News spoke to Zoe who started to use Ozempic after seeing people talking about it online.
She says in total she spent over £500 on weight loss injections over the internet before she stopped using them, and says she wouldn’t recommend them.
“It was like two weeks in and I just had to come off it because I was still feeling ill.
“And there was no actual benefits it didn’t feel like anything was different, it didn’t decrease my appetite. So I would have headaches. I was feeling sick all day, I had to wear an anti sickness band around all day.”
BEAT, the eating disorder charity, say that the wider issue of weight loss trends online are concerning.
A spokesperson for the charity, Martha Williams said: “What’s worrying is there’s no kind of regulation on social media.
“So you could be getting diet advice from someone, but actually there are so many people out there that probably aren’t qualified to give that advice or don’t have the proper training or also don’t have an understanding of that person’s individual circumstances.
“If anyone is having thoughts of, oh, I think I’m going to buy this, I’m going to go on the internet. I would really encourage them to kind of pick up the phone and call BEAT and talk it through first because I think it has the potential to be incredibly dangerous.”
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