Recent studies show that certain injectable diabetes drugs can help with weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes, in combination with diet and exercise. Healthcare professionals may prescribe these drugs off-label for weight loss in people without this condition.
Scientists have designed drugs, such as semaglutide (Ozempic) and liraglutide (Saxenda), for people with obesity or overweight. They also make them for addressing additional weight-related comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. While some healthcare professionals may recommend an off-label use for weight loss in those without these conditions, the manufacturers did not create them for general use.
These medications work by mimicking gut peptides, which help regulate a person’s blood sugar. Research has found that, in conjunction with appropriate lifestyle habits, these medications can help people lose significant weight or maintain weight loss.
Injectable diabetes drugs for weight loss mimic the gut peptides that help regulate blood sugar. Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) are both incretin hormones, or gut peptides. They are
Incretin hormones cause the body to produce more insulin when a person consumes sugar orally than when they receive glucose intravenously through a vein. This is called the incretin effect. In people with type 2 diabetes, the incretin effect is either decreased or absent.
That is when GLP-1 receptor agonists and GIP receptor agonists can step in to manage blood sugar and, as recent studies have shown, help with weight loss.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a small handful of GLP-1 receptor agonists and GIP receptor agonists for weight loss in people who have obesity or who have overweight and another weight-related health condition. This category includes the below medications.
The following are examples of GLP-1 medications that can help people lose weight.
Semaglutide (Wegovy, Ozempic)
These drugs are available in the following strengths:
|• 2 milligrams of semaglutide in 1.5 milliliters of solution (2 mg/1.5 mL)
• 4 mg/3 mL
• 8 mg/3 mL
|• 0.25 mg/0.5 mL
• 0.5 mg/0.5 mL
• 1 mg/0.5mL
• 1.7 mg/0.75 mL
• 2.4 mg/0.75 mL
Tirzepatide is a GIP receptor agonist that activates both the GLP-1 and GIP receptors to improve blood sugar regulation. This dual effect may make tirzepatide more effective than other injectable diabetes medications. It is available as an injectable liquid solution under the brand name Mounjaro.
Currently, Mounjaro is FDA-approved for managing blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes.
However, because of the drug’s
Mounjaro is a weekly injection with pre-filled single-dose pens available in the following strengths:
- 2.5 mg/0.5 mL
- 5 mg/0.5 mL
- 7.5 mg/0.5 mL
- 10 mg/0.5 mL
- 12.5 mg/0.5 mL
- 15 mg/0.5 mL
However, only Saxenda has FDA approval as a weight loss aid. Healthcare professionals prescribe Victoza to manage blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack and stroke.
Saxenda is a daily injection with pre-filled single-use pens containing 18 mg of liraglutide in 3 mL of solution.
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the above listed GLP-1 drugs.
|Frequency of injection
|• 2 mg/1.5 mL
• 4 mg/3 mL
• 8 mg/3 mL
|• 0.25 mg/0.5 mL
• 0.5 mg/0.5 mL
• 1 mg/0.5 mL
• 1.7 mg/0.75 mL
• 2.4 mg/0.75 mL
|• 2.5 mg/0.5 mL
• 5 mg/0.5 mL
• 7.5 mg/0.5 mL
• 10 mg/0.5 mL
• 12.5 mg/0.5 mL
• 15 mg/0.5 mL
|18 mg/3 mL
These injectable diabetes drugs may help a person lose weight when diet changes and exercise are not enough. They may help someone lose weight faster and keep it off longer.
For example, a 2021 clinical trial found that using 2.4 mg of semaglutide once per week in combination with diet and exercise had an association with significant, sustained weight loss. By week 68, participants in the semaglutide group had lost 14.9% of their starting body weight — much higher than the 2.4% loss in the placebo group.
A 2022 clinical trial involving tirzepatide once weekly showed similar results. At week 72, participants who had been taking 5 mg, 10 mg, or 15 mg of tirzepatide daily recorded a 15%, 19.5%, and 20.9% decrease in body weight, respectively.
While these results are significant, it is important to note that these were long-term studies pairing medication with lifestyle strategies such as diet and exercise. The medication alone cannot provide short-term, healthy weight loss.
Some of the most common side effects of these medications are:
- decreased appetite
- abdominal pain
Possible serious risks and side effects include:
- serious allergic reactions
- low blood sugar
- diabetic retinopathy complications
- severe stomach, gallbladder, or kidney problems
- inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis
Rodent studies have also shown that semaglutide, tirzepatide, and liraglutide can cause thyroid C-cell tumors. Health experts do not yet know whether these injectable diabetes drugs can cause tumors in humans, but it is important to understand the risk. All of these medications have FDA
Manufacturers generally warn against using these drugs if a person has a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma, a type of thyroid cancer, or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2), an endocrine system condition.
“Only two anti-diabetic medications are FDA-approved for weight management in people who do not have diabetes: Semaglutide (Wegovy) and Liraglutide (Saxenda). Ozempic and Rybelsus are two other brands of Semaglutide on the market that are approved by the FDA for glycemic control in diabetes but not for weight management.
Ozempic is only prescribed to type 2 diabetic patients for the sole purpose of glycemic control. Because of the increased risk of adverse reactions, it is not recommended for use in the absence of diabetes. This medication’s safety profile has not been studied in patients under the age of 18, pregnant and lactating people, or those with normal BMIs.”
Healthcare professionals only recommend injectable diabetes drugs for weight loss for people who either have obesity or overweight and another weight-related medical condition.
Doctors may classify a person as having obesity or overweight based on body mass index (BMI), a measurement of weight in relation to height. For adults, the
Weight-related medical conditions include:
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure, or hypertension
- increased amounts of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, or low amounts of high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol
- coronary heart disease
Therefore, a suitable candidate for these medications is someone with obesity or overweight and a medical condition such as type 2 diabetes or hypertension. Some doctors may prescribe injectable diabetes drugs for weight loss if a person has overweight or obesity and has indications of prediabetes.
Manufacturers did not design these drugs for people with moderate weight who want to lose additional weight. Despite their popularity on social media, these medications carry significant risks and can be harmful to those who do not need them.
Furthermore, it is not advisable for people to use injectable diabetes drugs for weight loss if they:
- are pregnant or may become pregnant, are nursing, or are planning on nursing
- have a personal or family history of thyroid cancer
- have a personal history of MEN 2
“Ozempic helps regulate blood glucose by stimulating the pancreas to release more insulin when blood glucose levels are elevated. This can cause severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) in people who do not have diabetes, necessitating immediate medical attention.
Other serious side effects include pancreatitis (pancreatic inflammation), the development of thyroid tumors, and gallbladder problems.”
— Kimberly Langdon, MD
Below is a list of online stores where someone can purchase diabetes drugs for weight loss.
Ro offers a 1-year weight loss program, which the company claims helps people lose up to 15% of their body weight.
The program works by combining GLP-1 drugs with one-to-one personal coaching. The drugs Ro provides include Wegovy and Ozempic.
People begin the process by answering a questionnaire about their medical history and goals. Ro then requests a small blood sample so the healthcare professionals on this platform can determine which medication treatment is best.
After a person provides their sample, they will have a phone conversation with a healthcare practitioner who will discuss the results and make a weight loss plan. In the personal coaching sessions, people can ask for tips on nutrition, sleep, hygiene, exercise, medication, and lifestyle changes.
The Ro Body Program costs $99 for the first month. After this time, it costs $135 per month.
Calibrate the following GLP-1 medications:
- Wegovy (semaglutide)
- Ozempic (semaglutide)
- Mounjaro (tirzepatide)
- Saxenda (liraglutide)
- Rybelsus (semaglutide)
- Trulicity (dulaglutide)
To begin with, Calibrate requests some lab tests from the person and asks for their medical history. Following this, individuals receive a one-to-one 30-minute video appointment with a doctor where they will discuss a treatment plan and prescriptions.
This prescription medication is available for $25 per month and is cheaper with insurance. However, Calibrate does not mention shipping costs on its website.
Blink Health offers GLP-1 medication to people with valid prescriptions. The company can send the drugs to a person’s local pharmacy, so there are no shipping costs.
A person must have a valid prescription to use this service. If they do not have one, they can contact a doctor on the platform. The cost of these visits starts from $10.
Blink Health accepts insurance. The price of GLP-1 medication without insurance are as follows:
Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about these medications.
What are GLP-1 drugs?
GLP-1 stands for glucagon-like peptide-1. It can help treat type 2 diabetes by increasing the amount of insulin in the body when blood sugar levels rise.
What are GLP-1 drugs for weight loss?
GLP-1 drugs can help with weight loss as they can reduce hunger and cause the stomach to empty slower.
Is metformin a GLP-1 drug?
Metformin is not a GLP-1 drug — it is in a class of drugs called biguanides.
Some individuals may take metformin alongside GLP-1 drugs.
Is GLP-1 the same as Ozempic?
Ozempic is a brand name for a type of GLP-1 drug called semaglutide.
People who have obesity or who have overweight and another weight-related medical condition and have been unable to lose weight with diet and exercise alone may find certain injectable diabetes drugs helpful for losing weight.
Potential side effects range from common nausea and indigestion to more severe stomach, gallbladder, and kidney problems.
However, people who have a personal or family history of thyroid cancer should not use injectable diabetes drugs for weight loss.