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Doctors emphasize potential risks as new weight loss drugs grow in popularity

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jan 19, 2023

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, new weight loss drugs have become so popular that demand is outpacing supply. But that’s not the only issue - doctors are now emphasizing the potential health risks that come with these drugs.

Three particular drugs became very popular due to unintentional weight loss in patients. But two of them - called Victoza and Ozempic - are only approved to treat type 2 diabetes. They were first approved back in 2005, and then along came Wegovy. Now, this drug is specifically FDA-approved for chronic weight management in people with obesity. What it does, is it mimics a hormone that decreases patients’ appetite. And clinical trials found that Wegovy could reduce body weight by around 15%. So no surprise that last fall, not only did Wegovy start having intermittent shortages but so did the diabetic drug Ozempic.

Now, what people don’t realize is that there can be unpleasant side effects like nausea, pain at the injection site, and inflammation of the pancreas. Also, kidney, liver, diabetes, cholesterol, and electrolyte testing need to get done every 3 to 4 months. Besides all that, a new study found a very concerning link between these drugs and thyroid cancer. Researchers found a 58% higher risk of developing thyroid cancer in patients with type 2 diabetes that took these types of drugs for one to three years.

There are several types of thyroid cancer. Most of them grow slowly, but a few types can be aggressive. Symptoms to look out for include a lump you can feel on your neck, difficulty swallowing, swollen lymph nodes, and pain in your neck and throat. The good news is that most thyroid cancers are highly curable. And the 5-year survival is 98%.

Now, I want to stress that just because a person is taking Victoza, Ozempic or Wegovy doesn’t mean you’re going to get thyroid cancer. But it’s certainly something you should be aware of, and talk to your doctor concerning your personal risks.

Obesity is a chronic disease. And it’s associated with some very serious causes of death, like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, plus an increased risk of certain types of cancer. So the length of time a person takes Wegovy or a similar type of drug should be weighed against the risks of not taking the drug. For some people, this could be a medication they take for the rest of their lives. Research found that people who took Wegovy ended up regaining two-thirds of the weight they had lost after they stopped the drug. But what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. So again, it’s important to talk to your family doctor about the pros and cons, and also, don’t forget it's also extremely important to eat a healthy diet and get daily exercise.

We have all heard the word “organic” loosely thrown around about all sorts of things, but is it really worth learning about and abiding by? What makes organic food healthier? On the next Dr. Nandi Show, celebrity nutritionist Cynthia Sass and family physician Dr. Jason Littleton join Dr. Nandi, MD, in uncovering what organic really means and how it can help you live healthier. Tune in this Saturday, January 21st at 5 pm to learn if Organic Living is really worth the hype.