Thousands of People Have Reportedly Overdosed on Ozempic

People have been overdosing on semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, because — surprise, surprise — they're taking too much of it.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, semaglutide overdoses have doubled every year since 2020 as the drug has surged in popularity.

Although scientists still aren't exactly sure how or why semaglutide works, they're fairly confident about its underlying mechanism: replicating the natural digestive hormones that control insulin, which also seem to control appetite and fullness (and, in at least some cases, the desire to eat at all).

Overdoses of semaglutide can resemble hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, the LAT report indicates, the medical terms for the dizziness, sweating, and rapid heartbeat that occurs when someone hasn't eaten enough to get the sugars required to power the body.

With reports suggesting that as much as 1.7 percent of the American population (or some 5.68 million people) has been prescribed the drug in the past year, the injectable has flown off pharmacy shelves, leading not only to an uptick in black market semaglutide sales, but also, apparently, to some people being given the diabetes drug Ozempic when they're prescribed Wegovy.

According to Stephen Petrou and Raymond Ho of the California Poison Control System, most of the overdoses that they've seen have occurred in the injectable version of the drug rather than with Rybelsus, the daily pill. That's likely a result of people prescribed Wegovy being given Ozempic as a stopgap by pharmacists, given that Wegovy comes in single-use pens while Ozempic uses needles that vary in dosage.

"Someone who is unable to get Wegovy can resort to using Ozempic instead, because it is the same medication, but they may start to [adjust] their dose [upwards]," Petrou, a toxicology fellow and emergency medicine specialist with the state's poison control system, told the LAT. "That’s when they might encounter problems."

According to the nonprofit organization America’s Poison Centers, which represents 55 poison control facilities in the US, nearly 3,000 people overdosed from semaglutide between January 1 and November 30 of 2023. That number is more than double 2022's overdose total (1,447), which itself was doubled from the 607 ODs in 2021.

Ho, the managing director of the CPCS, described the rise in overdoses of the drug as an "alarming trend," and with those numbers, it's not hard to see why.

"We get the usual dosing error calls," he told the newspaper, "and all of a sudden there’s an explosion of people calling much more regularly about this."

Along with the risk of overdose, semaglutide also carries a number of other crappy-sounding side effects that can range from nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea to rarer incidences of stomach paralysis and intestinal blockage.

While controlling one's weight or diabetes is certainly a worthy and understandable goal, there keep being more and more reports about the very serious risks associated with semaglutide — which should probably give both doctors and patients pause before deciding the drug is the right move.

More on the dark side of semaglutide: Pfizer Cancels New Weight Loss Pill After Patients Experience Serious Side Effects