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September 20, 2023
If you follow popular supplement and weight loss product trends, you have likely heard of semaglutide, the active compound in Rybelsus, Ozempic, and Wegovy.
Semaglutide, which helps users lose weight by improving blood sugar levels and reducing appetite, has helped people transform their lives quickly. And once you decide to try semaglutide, you have to determine what brand of weight loss drugs is the best choice.
Rybelsus is an oral tablet very similar to Ozempic, but the strict daily dosing protocol and reduced bioavailability make it less desirable than the injectable form for some. Wegovy and Ozempic are both once-weekly subcutaneous injectable forms of semaglutide, so they are often compared.
But, is one better than the other? Are they both great options, or is one more suitable for some than the other? We'll get into all of that, and more, in this article that breaks down Ozempic and Wegovy to help you determine which option is best for you.
Table of Contents:
Ozempic was introduced in 2012 by Danish-based pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, becoming the first semaglutide medication.
At first, the company planned on using semaglutide as a longer-acting alternative to the drug liraglutide for treating type 2 diabetes mellitus. Ozempic is a compound referred to as a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, which helps improve blood sugar levels by lowering blood glucose.
During clinical trials for Ozempic, researchers noticed that patients were losing incredible amounts of weight, which led to new clinical trials and expanding semaglutide's use to include weight loss management. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ozempic in December 2017 for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Although it is not FDA-approved for weight loss, many doctors prescribe it off-label overweight and obese patients lose weight.
Ozempic is a once-weekly subcutaneous injection that can be taken any time, with or without food, as long as it's the same day each week. Ozempic injections come in doses of 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1.0 mg, and 2.0 mg, kept in an injectable pen.
A red-label Ozempic pen contains 2 mg total and six needles, divided into doses of 0.25 mg and 0.5 mg. Users usually begin with four injections of 0.25 mg, then increase to a maintenance dose of 0.5 mg.
The blue-label Ozempic pen contains 4 mg total, divided into four maintenance doses of 1 mg and four needles, and the yellow-label pen has a total of 8 mg, with four needles divided into four 2 mg doses. The most popular injection sites are the upper arm, front of the thigh, and your waist. Users should rotate injection sites to avoid damage or discomfort.
Ozempic mimics the effects of GLP-1 glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) hormone. As such, it both triggers the pancreas to release insulin and reduces the release of glucagon, a hormone that increases blood sugar levels. This combination helps regulate estimated blood sugar levels and allows glucose to enter cells to be used as energy.
Maintaining glycemic control is crucial for both diabetes treatment and long-term weight loss. In addition to stabilizing blood sugar levels, Ozempic also slows down the rate at which food enters the small intestine during digestion, allowing nutrients to be absorbed slower.
The slower absorption helps lower blood sugar levels, keeps you feeling full longer, and can reduce cravings. In higher doses, semaglutide can also help by triggering the brain to suppress appetite and increase satiety1. To maximize weight loss, users should consume fewer calories and live a healthy lifestyle.
The standard starting dose is 0.25 mg for the first four weeks, followed by 0.5 mg for at least four weeks. Users can increase the dose as needed, and if the side effects are manageable, up to a maximum dose of 2 mg. Studies suggest that users can stay on Ozempic long-term for up to two years or possibly longer if they can tolerate the side effects and the healthcare provider approves it.
Once Novo Nordisk saw the weight loss potential in the Ozempic trials, they sought to expand the use of semaglutide. This led to the development of Wegovy, a higher-dose form of Ozempic explicitly designed to help users lose weight and chronic weight management.
The FDA approved Wegovy in June 2021 for anti-obesity and long-term weight management in adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater or a body mass index of 27 or greater with at least one weight-related medical condition, such as high blood pressure.
Like Ozempic, Wegovy is also a once-weekly subcutaneous injection that can be taken any time of the day, as long as it's the same day. Wegovy comes in five doses, all with their color pen: green 0.25 mg starting dose (weeks 1-4), purple 0.5 mg, brown 1 mg, navy blue 1.7 mg, and black 2.4 mg pen for the maximum dose.
Also like Ozempic, users start with a low dose of 0.25 for the first four weeks before increasing to 0.5 mg. However, Wegovy has slightly higher doses of 1.7 and 2.4 mg to help promote weight loss.
Although Wegovy contains the exact same drug as Ozempic, it has slightly higher doses and different indications, so they are not meant to be taken together. Regardless, it has been proven safe for long-term use up to 68 weeks, with studies showing positive results with limited side effects2.
Since Wegovy is the same drug as Ozempic and only contains semaglutide, it works nearly identically. Wegovy also mimics the effects of GLP-1, which helps users lose weight by improving blood sugar levels, slowing gastric emptying, reducing appetite, and increasing satiety.
The only difference between Wegovy versus Ozempic is that it has slightly higher dosages, which is meant to potentiate the appetite-suppressing aspect of semaglutide. Wegovy uses higher doses because studies have shown that high doses of semaglutide can trigger the brain to reduce appetite and keep you full longer.
In the early stages, the dosing protocol is identical to Ozempic:
While Ozempic might keep users at a maintenance dose of 1.0 mg for several months, Wegovy increases the dosage to 1.7 mg in weeks 13-16 (month 4), followed by the maximum dose of 2.4 mg in weeks 17 and onward.
You can learn more about how both forms of semaglutide work in our article: How Long Does It Take Semaglutide To Work?
It's not surprising that Ozempic and Wegovy have several similarities since they are the same active ingredient with different brand names. Let's take a look at how they stack up head-to-head.
To answer that question, Novo Nordisk ran several clinical trials that compared various semaglutide medications to one another.
One of the trials was STEP (Semaglutide Treatment Effect in People with Obesity), which tested the effects of 2.4 mg of Wegovy on weight loss. STEP 2 was the trial designed to compare the weight loss results of the maximum Wegovy dose of 2.4 mg to the maintenance dose for diabetes treatment of 1.0 mg Ozempic.
After 68 weeks, 1.0 mg of Ozempic resulted in an estimated mean weight change of -7.0%, while 2.4 mg of Wegovy resulted in a -9.6% mean lost weight.
It also showed that 68.8% of users on Wegovy achieved at least 5% average weight loss compared to 57.1% on Ozempic. Similarly, 25.8% of users on Wegovy achieved at least 15% weight loss compared to 13.7% of Ozempic users3.
Based on these results, they concluded that the higher doses of semaglutide in Wegovy led to more significant weight loss than in Ozempic. Therefore, Wegovy is better for weight loss due to the higher doses available. Despite this, doctors will often prescribe Ozempic for weight loss.
While the STEP clinical trials showed that the higher doses of Wegovy led to more significant weight loss, we thought exploring independent trials would be a good idea.
A double-blind trial examined the weight loss effects of 2.4 mg of Wegovy over 68 weeks. The results showed an average loss in body weight of 14.9% in the Wegovy group, with an average loss of 15.3 kg (33.7 lbs)4. In a separate study, doses of 1.7 mg and 2.4 of Wegovy were compared, showing an average total body weight loss of 5.9% at three months and 10.9% at six months5.
These results are consistent with other studies and the STEP trials, confirming that Wegovy is superior for weight loss due to the higher doses of semaglutide. Anecdotal evidence shows similar findings, although people can also achieve tremendous weight loss on Ozempic.
Countless real-life users have also reported positive results. One reddit commenter said: "55 lbs in about six months," (source) Another added: "It is miraculous! I'm on week 17 and down 25 pounds." (source)
Ozempic users seem to share the success, with similar weight loss success stories, such as this Reddit user who said: "Down 35 pounds in 5 months!" (source) while another user posted, "Down 47 lbs in six months." (source)
To learn more about the weight loss potential of these products, check out our article: How Much Weight Can You Lose On Semaglutide? I also highly recommend checking out the video below, as it features a doctor who specializes in weight loss highlighting the benefits of Ozempic and Wegovy.
The anecdotal evidence shows that both are effective, but it's also important to stress that diet and exercise, even while taking Ozempic or Wegovy, play a big role. At the end of the day, prescription drugs can only do so much. You must live a healthier lifestyle with nutrient-dense foods and exercise consistently to maximize weight loss potential.
So, for best results, make sure your diet and physical activity are in check. Find a good workout split, perform weekly LISS cardio, and follow a great plan, like our 4 Week Meal Plan For Weight Loss.
Mounjaro is the brand name for tirzepatide, a compound referred to as a glucose-dependant insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP), a hormone very similar to GLP-1 in that it helps blood sugar levels.
Since Mounjaro activates both the GIP and GLP-1 receptors, it works similarly to semaglutide. Like Ozempic and Wegovy, Mounjaro is injected once weekly subcutaneously. Several studies have shown that Mounjaro controls blood sugar and weight loss more effectively than semaglutide medications like Ozempic and Wegovy.
Eli Lily conducted the SURMOUNT clinical trials on Mounjaro, which showed an average total body weight loss of 26.6% after 84 weeks, compared to the roughly 15% lost on Wegovy in a similar time frame6.
However, Mounjaro is more expensive with worse side effects than semaglutide medications. Ozempic and Wegovy have a much better safety profile, so doctors and patients often prefer it.
Another part of the STEP clinical trials was to compare Wegovy vs. Ozempic side effects. The trials showed that the safety profile of 2.4 mg of Wegovy was similar to that of 1.0 mg of Ozempic, with primarily gastrointestinal discomfort.
Below are the drug's most common side effects and people who should avoid them.
In addition, even rarer side effects include bleeding, burning feeling in the chest, pancreatitis, hypoglycemia, and a loss or change of taste.
Some people who should avoid Ozempic and Wegovy include those with thyroid issues, thyroid cancer, or those with a history of medullary thyroid cancer, gastrointestinal disorder, a history of pancreatitis, kidney or liver issues, cardiovascular disease or issues, and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning on becoming pregnant.
In addition to the similar side effects, the STEP 2 clinical trials also showed that Ozempic and Wegovy produce similar changes in HbA1c (measurement of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin), systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and other cardiometabolic risk factors.
One downside of semaglutide is the expensive price tag. These medications are highly desired and have a limited supply, a perfect recipe for booming prices. There is currently a shortage of these medications, so prices have elevated and can fetch even higher on secondary markets.
The cost of medicine will depend on what country you are in and what kind of insurance coverage you have, as prices in America are the most expensive. As of September 2023, the Ozempic list price is $935.77 for a 28-day supply of all dosages, while Wegovy is $1,349.02 in the United States.
However, if you live in the United Kingdom, Ozempic is only $93 and even lower in France at $83. Similarly, Wegovy is only $328 in Germany, roughly one-fourth the price in America.
While insurance companies will approve Ozempic for diabetes treatment without hesitation, they are less likely to approve it for weight loss. If you are fortunate enough to get approval, this can significantly drop the price to roughly $25 for Ozempic and slightly higher for Wegovy.
Luckily, Novo Nordisk offers copay savings cards that can save you up to $225 per month supply for Wegovy, while Ozempic can be as low as $25 a month.
If you're interested in learning more about the costs, check out our article: How Much Is Semaglutide Without Insurance?
We just covered a lot of information, and sometimes it helps to look at things side by side. Here's a look at the two medications.
Type 2 diabetes treatment
Long-term weight loss for adults with high BMI
Dosing for Weight Loss
Mechanism of Action
Mimics GLP-1 hormone
Weight Loss Efficacy
Mean weight change of -7.0% with 1.0 mg
9.6% mean weight loss with 2.4 mg
These are some of the most commonly asked questions about Ozempic versus Wegovy.
Rybelsus is an oral tablet version of semaglutide, the active drug in Ozempic and Wegovy. Alternative weight loss medications with similar results include liraglutide and Mounjaro.
Ozempic is the most popular semaglutide medication and has led to people specifically requesting the medication without realizing Wegovy is nearly identical. They are both great options.
Reasons for not losing weight on Ozempic include a poor diet, lack of exercise, not staying on long enough, too low of a dosage, poor hydration, poor sleep habits, use of alcohol or drugs, or you may not be responding to the medication. Be sure to check in with your doctor if you're not losing weight. You can also learn more about this by heading to our article: 7 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight On Semaglutide.
Aside from requiring a prescription, there is currently a worldwide shortage of Ozempic and semaglutide until at least mid-2024. It is a complex process to produce the medicine, and the demand exceeds the supply.
There is no evidence that Wegovy or other semaglutide products cause hair loss.
Many people gain weight back after using Wegovy; however, that is due to a poor diet and lack of exercise. Maintaining a healthy diet and consistent workout routine is imperative to prevent weight gain.
Both options are brand-name diabetes medications that can be used for weight loss. Each contains the drug semaglutide, which mimics the effects of GLP-1, a hormone released as a response to eating.
These drugs trigger an increase in the release of insulin, a decrease in glucagon, a slowing of gastric emptying, a reduction in appetite, and an increase in satiety. This results in better glycemic control, ideal for type 2 diabetes treatment, and significant weight loss.
Both come in once-weekly subcutaneous injections, but Wegovy has slightly higher dosages, making it better for weight loss.
The decision on which to use will come down to your goals, your doctor's choice, and the availability of the medications. Both have been proven to help promote weight loss and can be used safely long-term, so you can't go wrong with either.
For more information on weight loss potential, check out our article: How Much Weight Can You Lose On Semaglutide? To compare these products to other options, check out our articles comparing Liraglutide vs. Semaglutide, Ozempic vs. Rybelsus, and Semaglutide vs Tirzepatide.
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