Content warning: This article contains mentions of disordered eating.
Semaglutide is the latest prescription medicine to go mainstream thanks to our friends in Hollywood and their never-ending “body optimization” journeys. Semaglutide is an injection sold under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic. Ozempic was initially approved for medical use in patients with Type 2 diabetes to regulate blood sugar levels, manage weight, and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. But in June 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Wegovy, Ozempic’s higher-dose-sister-drug, for long-term weight management. Since then, it’s been rumored the injections have become popular among celebrities who are getting the shots for aesthetic reasons rather than health-related ones.
Could semaglutide become Hollywood’s most embraced prescription injection since Botox’s approval for cosmetic use in 2002? Its not-so-secret rise in popularity points to: very possible. So far Elon Musk has been the only celebrity we found to publicly attribute their weight loss to the injection, but gossip amongst celebrity glam teams, nutritionists, and of course TikTok, suggests that it’s become a normalized part of celebrities’ red carpet prep. And while doctors who prescribe the medicine are enthusiastic about how semaglutide will help the patients it was intended for, some are wary of the drug being used to promote thinness and unattainable beauty standards.
Meet the experts:
- Caroline Messer, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist at Fifth Avenue Endocrinology in New York City.
- Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon and tumescent liposuction expert at PFrankMD in New York City.
How does semaglutide work?
The drug, which is essentially a string of amino acids, decreases blood sugar levels and suppresses appetites once injected. “This glucagon-like protein is used in the body to stimulate insulin production therefore controlling blood glucose levels and supporting metabolism,” explains Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon and tumescent liposuction expert at PFrankMD in New York City. “These medicines also slow gastric emptying, which gives the feeling of being full earlier and removes cravings.” For these reasons, medical professionals prescribe semaglutide to patients with type 2 diabetes (its originally intended usage), and to overweight patients to help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease through weight loss.
After getting a doctor’s prescription, semaglutide patients are tasked with injecting themselves with the drug at home on a weekly basis. According to Caroline Messer, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist at Fifth Avenue Endocrinology in New York City, initial monthly doses start at 0.25mg for everyone and can be increased up to 2.4mg depending on the desired weight loss. The amount of time spent taking the drug also varies with each patient. “It really depends on their needs and whether their weight gain has been a short-term or long-term issue,” says Dr. Frank, adding that a patient’s semaglutide timeline should be carefully planned by their physician.
Who is a candidate for semaglutide?
There are a few factors to consider. “Technically, a patient is a candidate for semaglutide for weight loss purposes if their body mass index is 27 with weight-related comorbidities (like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes) or 30+ with or without comorbidities,” explains Dr. Messer. Results from a clinical trial found that monthly weight loss was typical for those with a BMI greater than 25, while those with a lower BMI experienced a smaller monthly weight reduction. [Editor’s note: Though Allure does not consider the Body Mass Index system to be a true measure of one’s health, we’ve included BMI in this article because it is used as the measurement of eligibility for this medication.]