The tail end of 2022 saw the rise of what is now known as Tiktok’s favorite weight loss drug, wegovy. What started as a few medical videos intending to boost sales for the anti-obesity medication (AOM) has now snowballed into exponential demand among those hoping to shed pounds quickly.

While it’s true that wegovy can help people lose weight significantly in a short period of time, it is far from the simple and universal wonder drug social media platforms have framed it to be. If anything, it–and other similar AOMs–is a complex medication meant for a select few.

What exactly is wegovy?

Wegovy is a semaglutide drug that was approved by the FDA in 2021 for people who are obese or overweight. Manufactured by Novo Nordisk, it is essentially a repurposed and higher-dose variation of the company’s diabetes drug Ozempic. Both these medications are injected in the stomach, thigh, or arm once a week to suppress the appetite. This is a result of the drugs mimicking the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1, which delays gastric emptying and prolongs feelings of fullness.

It is important to note that there are many different types of medical weight loss solutions, of which wegovy is one. Whilst the choices can be bewildering, at least one study has suggested that it is more effective when pitting another known product, saxenda v wegovy. The study found at least 20% more people who didn’t have diabetes lost weight with the latter.

For this reason, wegovy has been successfully incorporated into the healthcare system. In fact, it is now often prescribed alongside lifestyle programs in medical weight loss interventions. These solutions not only address psychological and environmental factors contributing to weight gain, but biological ones as well. As a complex disorder, obesity predisposes certain people to excessive weight. Through these medical interventions, the playing field is leveled, and those struggling with their weight can lose up to 15% of it.

While this is seemingly insubstantial, research shows that losing even just 5% of weight is crucial for the health of obese and overweight individuals since it drastically reduces the risk of developing complications like hypertension and cardiovascular disease. This is just one of the reasons why wegovy has been in high demand among those who truly need it. Nonetheless, these nuances are often glossed over by social media posts hyping the drug, which focus solely on the results and not much more.

Wegovy beyond weight loss

Since its initial rise to fame, wegovy has generated 481.8 million views on Tiktok–a trend that has medical experts increasingly worried. Scrolling through the videos reveals a hyper-focus on the drug’s ability to help users quickly shed weight. This reflects an obsession with body size that has driven the demand for the drug to surpass the supply. Aside from the shortage making access increasingly difficult for people who need the medication, experts are also concerned about the implications for those using the drug blindly.

For instance, wegovy has been reported to cause gastrointestinal complications ranging from indigestion, nausea, and vomiting to constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Other undesirable effects include dizziness, headaches, fatigue, bloating, and gas. While these are mostly mild and go away with time, the drug’s active ingredient, semaglutide, has been linked to more severe conditions such as retinopathy and pancreatitis.

Moreover, it needs to be said that taking the drug can be a lifetime commitment. Clinical studies have shown that suddenly going off wegovy can cause weight regain of up to two-thirds of what was lost. This has often served as a barrier for most users, as the drugs are extremely expensive and cost approximately $1,300 a month. With most insurance companies refusing coverage, the financial costs can put a huge dent in the unsuspecting pocket.

Ultimately, wegovy is a powerful and effective medication that can bring positive changes for those who have long struggled with their weight. Nevertheless, it is not for everyone and is certainly not a magical, quick-fix solution to achieving a healthy weight despite what social media has painted it to be. As with all things health-related, the use of the drug must complement and not substitute a healthy diet and regular exercise. Only then can it work as it’s meant to.