CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — A new weight loss trend is gaining popularity across the nation and in West Virginia with a medication called Wegovy.
The drug has the same exact ingredients as a medication called Ozempic which is used to treat type 2 diabetics. Now, Wegovy is being used by people for its drastic effects on weight.
“I knew that if something didn’t change we were in big trouble … so, I gave it a shot and it’s the best thing I ever did,” Whitney Policano, a West Virginia native and Wegovy user said.
Policano started using the medication in 2021. She lost 141 pounds in less than a year.
“I was truly overweight, but a lot of people that have never been overweight don’t understand that I didn’t sit and eat all day and not do anything,” she said. “I was overweight just because I couldn’t maintain any type of hormonal levels in my body.”
Policano was a size 24 and had underlying health conditions that were making it hard for her to lose weight even though she was living an active lifestyle.
“I have thyroid disease … I have unspecified severe anemia … I have a condition called idiopathic inner cranial hypertension,” she said about what she called the “perfect storm” of illnesses.
She’s not a type two diabetic, but she used Wegovy and she saw the pounds fall off.
“Sometimes I forgot how big I was. I would walk by a mirror and go ‘oh my goodness,’” she said. “And now people are like ‘you look like a different person … You feel like you used to feel. I can keep up with my kids now.”
At first, Policano used Ozempic before she was approved for the Wegovy. The two medications have the same ingredients, but Wegovy is only approved for weight loss by the FDA, and Ozempic is only approved to treat type 2 diabetes.
“They were originally studied to use in the diabetic population but with the amount of weight loss we were seeing, it was pretty clear that they would benefit the patients with obesity as well,” Hugh B. Quinn, PharmD, BCPS a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at WVU Medicine’s Endocrinology department said.
The medications come in prefilled pens that are self-injected once a week. Patients using Wegovy gradually increase the number of milligrams they get under their doctors’ guidance.
“When used properly, it is a pretty safe medication. There are some side effects as with all medications,” Quinn said.
In the first week or two, Policano said she had some nausea but nothing more.
“It’s truly like you’ve had gastric, some type of weight loss surgery because you can eat four or five bites of something and be like ‘okay, I’m done,’” Policano said.
But now that the trend is gaining popularity, there’s a shortage.
“The supply and production isn’t able to keep up with demand,” Quinn said. “The strain on the supply chain is putting a bit of pressure on those patients that have been using these medications for years for the treatment of diabetes so that is certainly something that is straining the system.”
“A lot of people have been messaging me ‘where do you get yours, ’cause my pharmacy is out,’” Policano said.
However, in the future, the availability might get better.
“Thankfully we have other options in development that will reduce the strain on the supply chain and hopefully patients will have access to it,” Quinn said.
Policano said the weight loss saved her life and that she’s seen improvements in all her health problems. Now, she’s sharing her journey to help others.
“If I help one person then I’ve done a good job because if somebody wouldn’t have helped me, if he would’ve never mentioned that to me, my life would’ve been maybe totally different right now,” she said.
Policano’s husband has also started the Wegovy and he has lost 80 pounds. Policano plans to continue to use the Wegovy to lose another 20 to 30 pounds.