A new study suggests people taking popular injected medications for weight loss, including Wegovy, Ozempic, Saxenda and Victoza, may be at higher risk for serious digestive problems such as stomach paralysis, pancreatitis, and bowel obstructions, compared with those taking other types of weight loss medications.
The study found risks of these events happening to individual patients appears to be rare — about 1% of people taking Ozempic were diagnosed with stomach paralysis, for example. But demand for the drugs has exploded, with tens of millions now taking them worldwide. Researchers say even rare risks like these may amount to hundreds of thousands of new cases.
“When you have millions of people using these drugs, you know, a 1% risk still translates to many people who may experience these events,” said lead study author Dr. Mahyar Etminan, an epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia.
The study authors also note that these problems are not mild. Bowel obstructions, for example, can be medical emergencies.
Previous CNN reporting highlighted cases of stomach paralysis in people who had taken these drugs and the lack of warning about that specific side effect to patients.
The prescribing information for Wegovy and Saxenda does caution about a host of serious side effects including inflammation of the pancreas, gallbladder problems, blocked intestines, kidney problems, serious allergic reactions, increased heart rate, suicidal thoughts, and changes in vision or people who also have diabetes. A warning about ileus, or blocked intestines, was also just added to Ozempic’s warning label.
The labels also note the most common side effects are nasuea, vomiting and constipation. They also strongly warn people with a history of certain types of hereditary thyroid cancers against taking the medications.
For the study, which published as a research letter in JAMA, researchers at the University of British Columbia sifted through a random sample of more than 16 million insurance claims from a prescription drug database that covers about 93% of all outpatient prescriptions in