Semaglutide is a drug originally developed for diabetes that was approved for weight loss in 2021.
Hailed as a "game-changer," it works by curbing appetite and can make people's cravings disappear.
Six women who've taken semaglutide shared their pros and cons of the drug with Insider.
Since being approved for weight loss almost two years ago, semaglutide has been hailed as a "game-changer"
The drug manufacturer Novo Nordisk produces semaglutide under the brand names Ozempic for diabetes and Wegovy for weight loss. Confusingly, Ozempic has become the byword for the once-weekly shot regardless of which version of the drug a person is taking, or why.
There have been shortages of the drugs as people clamor to get their hands on them, and rumors swirl that celebrities secretly take the medications.
The drugs are expensive, with Wegovy costing $1,349 a month and Ozempic $892 if they're not covered by insurance, Insider's Gabby Landsverk reported.
For this reason, some people have turned to potentially risky compounded semaglutide which can come in different doses, forms, or with alternative ingredients than the original products, but is also cheaper, Landsverk reported.
Six women who are taking some form of semaglutide shared their experiences with Insider, from the highs of regaining their to confidence and "food noise" vanishing, to the lows of nausea and constipation.
Lana Rodriguez said semaglutide is the best thing that's ever happened to her.
By January 2023, she had lost 30 pounds and was happy in her body so has since transitioned to one shot every two weeks with the hope of maintaining her weight.
Rodriguez, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, told Insider that the biggest pros of the medication have been:
No longer needing to control her portion sizes
Killing the "food noise" inside her head
"It's the best thing that's happened to me," she said.
Rodriguez had constipation, nausea, and headaches, but they're manageable, she said.
Rodriguez experienced side effects such as a dry mouth, tasting bitterness, nausea, headaches, and constipation.
The symptoms were mostly manageable, but the two biggest cons for her were:
Rodriguez pays $200 per shot. She said this is expensive, but she feels safe in the knowledge that she gets her medication from an in-person doctor who is there to answer any questions, unlike her friends who've ordered the drug online for less, she said.
Ashley Dunham's blood work improved after she lost 70 pounds in 5.5 months.
Ashley Dunham, from St John's, Florida, lost 70 pounds in 5.5 months on compounded semaglutide and said she would recommend it to everybody.
Dunham, 32, started taking semaglutide in August 2022 and gradually started noticing changes over the first couple of months.
The biggest pros of the medication for Dunham are:
The weight loss
Improved blood work
Dunham struggled with nausea.
Dunham experienced a range of side-effects including nausea, migraines, and constipation, she said.
The biggest cons of semaglutide for her are:
Hyper-fixating on foods
Receiving some backlash for taking the medication
The nausea was "awful," Dunham said: "Not unmanageable, but not fun."
By "hyper-fixating" on foods, Dunham means that if she feels she wants, say, McDonald's French fries, she's not satisfied and doesn't want to eat anything else until she's got them, she said.
Dunham wishes there was less focus on already slim celebrities allegedly taking semaglutide for vanity and more on how the drug can improve the health of people who really need it.
"There needs to be an understanding that this is an effective treatment for obesity and obesity is not just one size," she said.
Nika Steward has lost 104 pounds and no longer obsesses over food.
She started taking semaglutide in June 2022 and lost 104 pounds in the first nine months of treatment, Steward, who lives in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, told Insider.
"It ended up being wildly successful and making me feel better than I ever did even after having gastric bypass surgery," Steward said.
The biggest change for Steward — and one that didn't occur with the gastric bypass — has been the "food noise" in her brain turning off.
The main pros of semaglutide for Steward are:
Feeling healthier overall
No longer obsessing over food
Nika Steward had mild constipation and nausea.
Steward's worst side effect has been constipation, which happened each time she upped her dose, as well as mild bouts of nausea.
The biggest cons of the drug for her are:
The cost and her reliance on health insurance
Semaglutide is currently covered by the insurance Steward's husband has through his work, and she knows her access is in the hands of insurance providers.
Elizabeth Wood has lost 82 pounds so far and gained a lot of confidence.
She started taking it in October 2022 and lost 82 pounds in the first five months.
"It's amazing, everybody should try it if they're trying to lose weight," Wood said.
The biggest pros for her have been:
Her old clothes fitting again
"Being able to enjoy looking in the mirror" has been really motivating, Wood said.
Elizabeth Wood hasn't had any negative side effects.
Unlike many people on semaglutide, Wood hasn't experienced any negative side effects, she said.
The only con is the price, she said. But while semaglutide isn't cheap, it's worth it for Wood. And when compared to surgery, which can cost as much as $30,000, it's not too bad, she said.
"But if you're talking about being on it forever, then yeah, it could add up to that," she added.
Mary Frances McCullar said semaglutide made weight loss easy after years of struggling.
Mary Frances McCullar, 49, started taking a compounded version of semaglutide on January 4 2023 and lost 21 pounds in the first 10 weeks.
Unlike many people drawn to semaglutide, McCullar didn't have "food chatter" or binge-eating tendencies, but even after tracking her macros and working with a trainer, she was still struggling.
Semaglutide showed her she could lose weight. The biggest pros for McCullar are:
It gives you the confidence that you can lose weight
It makes weight loss easy
Mary Frances McCullar spends less money on food, which helps her afford the cost of semaglutide.
Like many people on semaglutide, McCullar has suffered with mild nausea and constipation, but found herbal tea helps.
The price of semaglutide is a big con for McCullar, who spends $350 on five doses. However, she buys less food and drink which helps her save money, she said.
McCullar gets annoyed by the rhetoric that she and others are stealing medication from diabetics, as well as rumors around already slim celebrities taking the drug to get even skinnier.
The biggest cons for her are:
Negativity and backlash
Staci Rice lost 62 pounds in eight months and is enjoying being healthier and more active.
Staci Rice, 40, started taking semaglutide on May 4 2022 after trying "every diet around," she said.
Rice, who lives in Gray, Georgia, lost 62 pounds and in January 2023, moved her focus to maintenance and started injecting semaglutide every 10 days instead of weekly, she said.
The biggest pros of the medication for her are:
The inflammation in her knee disappearing
These two things together means she can run around after her kids and exercise more, which boosts her health further.
"Semaglutide has changed my life and I hope it's around forever," Rice said. "It's been a miracle for me."
Staci Rice wishes people didn't think those on semaglutide are lazy.
Rice's side effects included a dry mouth which didn't go away when she drank water, a bloated stomach, some nausea, and fatigue, she said.
However, the biggest con of semaglutide for her was actually dealing with what people think, she said.
"A lot of people have this idea that you are taking away from diabetics and that there's a shortage out there," Rice said. "Mine was compounded, so I actually did not use the regular Wegovy or Ozempic to take away from anybody. I feel like people think this is a lazy way to lose weight."
Insider previously reported on people using semaglutide who said it validated their experiences that dieting didn't work.
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