Overhauling diet and adopting an intensive exercise routine used to be the go-to approach for anyone looking to shift the scales.
But now there’s a ‘miracle’ remedy that offers the overweight a cheat code — allowing them to drastically lose weight without needing to eat buckets of spinach or workout until drenched in sweat.
A TikTok-inspired craze has seen semaglutide become the world’s — and Hollywood’s — hottest product.
Fans include Elon Musk, Jeremy Clarkson and social media sensation Remi Bader, who’ve described it as ‘genuinely incredible’. Kim Kardashian has also been rumoured to have taken the drug.
Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson (left) revealed this month that he was taking Ozempic in a bid to lose weight. When asked in October whether following a healthier diet or hitting the gym was behind his 30lb (13.6kg) weight loss, Elon Musk (right) credited ‘fasting’ and ‘Wegovy’
Comedian and TV host Chelsea Handler (left) revealed she took the drug after being prescribed it by her doctor — but said it made her nauseous. TikTok star Remi Bader (right) revealed that she was prescribed Ozempic by her doctor in 2020 ‘before it was trendy’
The wonder drug, branded as Ozempic or Wegovy, and given as a jab straight into the stomach, thigh or upper arm, suppresses hunger by mimicking appetite-regulating hormone and leaves users feeling fuller for longer.
But, while the planet’s leading obesity experts accept its obvious benefit of losing weight, they warn it is not a magic bullet to stay slim. And it may trigger unpleasant side effects, from nausea and diarrhoea to pancreatitis and gallbladder problems.
Confusingly, semaglutide is branded as two separate drugs, both of which are made by Denmark-based pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk.
Ozempic, which is experiencing a surge in popularity, is targeted at patients with type 2 diabetes. It lowers their blood sugar and reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes among those who also have heart disease.
The NHS watchdog approved Ozempic for people with type 2 diabetes in 2019, while health chiefs in the US gave it the green light for the same group in 2017.
Private clinics in the UK can give patients the drug off-label for just under £200 per month, while it is freely available in the US.
Novo Nordisk has warned it does not support off-label prescribing, which can limit supply for type 2 diabetes patients who have been prescribed the medication.
Its sister drug Wegovy, packed with a slightly more potent dose of the wonder chemical, has been available for people who are overweight and have at least one weight-related condition since 2021 in the US and 2022 in the UK.
Wegovy is expected to become available under a private prescription in the UK later this year. It is already widely available in the US.
Thanks to the hype, demand has shot through the roof for its fat-busting effects.
There have been shortages of both drugs due to their surge in popularity, with some UK doctors comparing it to the ‘HRT panic’ seen last year, which led to women meeting in carparks to swap medication when supply dried up.
Semaglutide acts like a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake — making users feel less hungry.
It also slows down the movement of food in the gut, which helps users stay full for longer.
Clinical trials show that those taking the drug lost up to 15.3kg (2 stone and 6lbs), on average, over the space of 15 months, compared to just 2.6kg (6lbs) in the placebo group.
Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson revealed this month that he was taking Ozempic in a bid to lose weight.
He said he was introduced to the injectable drug after learning that his friends were taking ‘a new Danish drug’ to ward off diabetes and ‘when questioned they all raved about it’.
The 62-year-old, who has in the past tried to slim through eating healthier and exercising, described its effects as being ‘genuinely incredible’.
When asked in October whether following a healthier diet or hitting the gym was behind his 30lb (13.6kg) weight loss, Elon Musk credited ‘fasting’ and ‘Wegovy’.
TikTok star Remi Bader revealed that she was prescribed Ozempic by her doctor in 2020 ‘before it was trendy’.
Celebrities including Elon Musk, Jeremy Clarkson and Remi Bader have spoke out about the ‘genuinely incredible’ Ozempic, which suppresses appetite and leaves users feeling fuller for longer
Wegovy and Ozempic work by triggering the body to produce a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 that is released naturally from the intestines after meals
But Ms Bader, who has 2.2million followers on the social media site, told the Not Skinny But Not Fat podcast that she put on ‘double the weight’ she lost when she came off the drug because her binge eating got ‘so much worse’.
Meanwhile, Comedian and TV host Chelsea Handler revealed she took the drug after being prescribed it by her doctor — but said it made her nauseous.
She told Variety: ‘Apparently, it makes you lose your appetite. But I like having an appetite. It made me nauseous, and I don’t like to be nauseous.’
It is also rumoured that Kim Kardashian used the drug to slim down for the Meta gala, after losing 16lbs (7.3kg) in three weeks to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dress, which she wore to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to then-President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
And Khloe Kardashian refuted rumours that she had turned to semaglutide.
As will all medications, Ozempic is not entirely risk-free.
Users commonly complain of nausea, constipation and diarrhoea, while some also suffer from acid reflux, fatigue and complain that food tastes different after taking the drug.
It is this side effect that some people credit for further assisting their weight loss — by making their favourite junk food taste bad.
Thyroid cancer, pancreatitis — when the organ becomes inflamed — and kidney failure are rare but serious side effects.
Patients have also warned of their face appearing gaunt, exhausted and old — a side effect that has been labelled ‘Ozempic face’.
Doctors have warned that while the drug is an example of ‘very smart science’, it is ‘not a panacea for everyone’, as it doesn’t work for one in five patients.
And while it may work in the short-term, some will pile the weight back on — so regular exercise and a healthy diet are still needed.
Kim Kardashian is rumoured to have used Wegovy to rapidly lose weight in order to fit in Marilyn Monroe’s famous ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ dress at the 2022 Met Gala (pictured)
Dr Simon Cork, a senior lecturer in physiology at Anglia Ruskin University, told MailOnline that semaglutide is ‘revolutionary in terms of treating obesity’ and the first class of drugs to show ‘significant, long lasting weight loss’.
‘That being said, there are clear guidelines as to who should be offered these drugs,’ he warned.
‘So far the guidance is that these drugs are only suitable to be prescribed to patients who are severely obese.
‘This is because clinical trials have only been undertaken in these patients, so the effects on patients who do not have this level of overweight or obesity are unclear.’
Dr Cork said: ‘These drugs should only be taken under the guidance of a physician.
‘There are important dosing regimens that have to be undertaken in order for patients to be able to tolerate the side effects of these drugs, which may not be adhered to if bought online.
‘There are rare incidences of life threatening complications such as pancreatitis that need to be monitored.
He added: ‘It’s understandable that people who struggle with their weight will reach out to any effective treatments that become available, particularly when the threshold for accessing them through the NHS are quite high.
‘But it’s important to understand the risks associated with taking these medications without the supervision of medical professionals.’
Professor Naveed Sattar, a diabetes expert at the University of Glasgow, told MailOnline that there is not yet enough data to show whether Ozempic will prevent chronic illness among people without diabetes.
But studies suggest that it reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes among diabetics, he noted.
And if people maintain a lower weight than they would otherwise be, due to the drug’s appetite-suppressing effect, then the risks of conditions linked to being overweight, such as diabetes or osteoarthritis, ‘will be considerably lowered’, Professor Sattar said.
He added: ‘[Ozempic] should also help people maintain better vitality levels and mental health in comparisons to being several kilograms heavier in weight.
‘Of course, these drugs are expensive and we need longer term data to reassure on safety but they will help people.
‘Ideally, however, we need to alter the obesogenic environment to help people putting on weight in the first place as we cannot reverse the obesity epidemic by drugs or surgery alone.’
Three in 10 Brits and a third of Americans are obese, which raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, some cancers, heart disease and stroke.
Targeted at these groups, weight loss drugs could boost health and ease pressure on healthcare systems.
Diet pills have previously stoke controversy after millions turned to ‘miracle’ appetite suppressants fenfluramine and phentermine. But the drugs damaged the heart.
Other weight loss drugs sibutramine and rimonabant. The former caused heart damage, psychosis and suicidal thoughts, while the latter left patients with depression.