People taking obesity drugs Ozempic and Wegovy gain weight once they stop taking drugs

This photograph taken on February 23, 2023, in Paris, shows the anti-diabetic drug “Ozempic” (semaglutide) manufactured by the Danish pharmaceutical company “Novo Nordisk”.

Joel Saget | AFP | Getty Images

Patients taking the blockbuster anti-obesity drugs Ozempic or Wegovy will regain weight after stopping the drugs.

“I think that’s what we see when people follow different diets or exercise programs, like when they go through pharmacological treatment,” Karin Conde-Knape, Novo Nordisk senior vice president of global drug discovery, said in an interview at CNBC’s Healthy Returns Summit on Wednesday. “As long as you keep your intake the same, your output the same, you’re able to control your weight. But if you get out of that, you’ll immediately start coming back.”

Conde-Knape said rates of weight gain after stopping Wegovy vary depending on the individual, adding that “some will come back sooner, some later.”

She said the available data suggests that most individuals will regain most of their weight within five years of stopping Wegovy, and around 50% of their weight after two to three years. Some people may actually gain more weight after stopping the drug than they initially lost, Conde-Knape added. Studies have also shown weight rebound in people who stop taking Ozempic. Novo Nordisk makes both drugs by prescription.

She said it had to do with how the drugs work. They mimic a hormone produced in the gut called GLP-1, which signals to the brain when a person is full. She called it a “direct effect on satiety” and noted that drugs can also control the type of food people crave.

But she said GLP-1 doesn’t rewire “your neural networks to really set a new body weight set point.” So any weight loss may not be permanent, according to Conde-Knape.

The Danish pharmaceutical company still needs to conduct more investigations and clinical trials to understand what’s driving these rates of weight gain, “but what’s hugely important is that you absolutely have to stick around,” Conde- Knape.

His remarks come after Ozempic and Wegovy were catapulted into the US national spotlight in recent years for being “weight loss miracles” in a nation obsessed with body image. In clinical trials, Wegovy has been shown to decrease body weight by approximately 15%.

Hollywood celebrities, social media influencers and even billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk have reportedly used the popular pen-shaped injections to get rid of unwanted weight.

Wegovy has soared since winning Food and Drug Administration approval for “chronic weight management” in June 2021. So has Ozempic, which was first licensed to treat diabetes. and is now used off-label for weight loss. That popularity sparked widespread shortages last year and prompted Novo Nordisk to ramp up production of Wegovy.

The shortage and other factors such as out-of-pocket costs or unpleasant side effects have forced some people to stop taking Ozempic or Wegovy. Many have complained about this hard-to-control weight bouncing.

Conde-Knape said the data so far indicates weight loss is maintained with long-term drug use. But the company’s data only looks at usage for two to three years at most.

“We’ll have to see how much more with the longer duration of treatment, how much more people can accomplish,” she said.

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