Ozempic has become the hot thing among celebrities, models, Instagram stars and other thin people, who are determined to get even thinner, according to a article in the new york magazine released earlier this week.
It was hard not to walk away from the article feeling disgusted by how the drug seems to have encouraged living a meal and a half a day, plus tea and a Xanax (this is how one of the women interviewed described his diet). We were curious to hear about the experience of someone with diabetes whose doctor prescribed it for real medical reasons. This essay is adapted from an interview with Ron Passmore, 55, of Richmond, Virginia, who kindly agreed to share his story. He has been on Ozempic for 11 months.
I think Ozempic has a bad reputation because some doctors prescribe it to people who shouldn’t be taking it. For me, it was a positive experience. I have had diabetes since my early thirties and have been insulin dependent for about 20 years. I started taking it because my doctor wanted to find a better way to manage my blood sugar. I went there in April and I lost 100 pounds from Feb. 1. My doctor says I’ve lost more weight than any other patient he’s put on. I had no expectation of losing weight. The average Ozempic patient loses 12 pounds. But I was at 387 pounds, so losing 12 pounds would be like the Titanic losing a lounge chair.
It was my doctor’s idea. He said try Ozempic and see if we can reduce the amount of insulin you need to take. My blood sugar was in the controlled diabetes range, but I had to take much more insulin than the average diabetic, injecting it into my abdomen no less than four times a day. When you take insulin, it makes you gain weight. Large amounts of insulin lead to additional weight gain. It’s an endless vicious circle; when you have excess insulin floating around in your system that generates hunger and you eat – or sometimes overreact – to cover the insulin. And then your sugar level is so high that your brain is telling you to need even more insulin.
My doctor had been monitoring my weight for years. I’m six and two, a big guy, so it started off slow, maybe an average of 10 pounds a year. But before you know it, you are morbidly obese. My doctor didn’t want me to reach 450 pounds by the time I was 60. He went over the standard stuff when he prescribed Ozempic; some patients tolerate it and some do not. I could lose a few pounds.
I started on a low dose once a week. You take this for four weeks and then you increase the dose. With the insurance it costs me nothing and so at first it was just another injection in my abdomen. Remember that I still took insulin when I got up in the morning, at noon, mid-afternoon and at dinner time. I wear a Dexcom glucometer to see my blood sugar in real time. As the weeks passed, I found that I needed less insulin. Before Ozempic, my blood sugar was like a roller coaster; it would skyrocket and then I would take the insulin and it would go down. With Ozempic, that line flattened out until I stayed level most of the day. Your A1C blood test gives you an idea of your average blood sugar over the past 90 days. Mine was in the six and sevens but now it’s down to 5.4 making it sound like I’m not diabetic
For the last six months I have been on Ozempic, I have had no issues, but there were gastric issues at first. I never had diarrhea, just stomach aches. These first two doses, there was also slight nausea, but it only lasted a day or two. And then as the dosage increased there were a few times where I had a sour stomach, but I found that if I drank a little baking soda water it would solve the problem.
The pharmacology of the drug is that it slows down intestinal motility so much that you retain stomach contents much longer. This is what keeps you from being hungry. For me, it’s not just that I’m less hungry, I have less capacity. I am the cook in my family. When I cook, I eat as I go. If I do this now, by the time I sit down for dinner, I’m already full. We had a big birthday dinner two nights ago and I had a pot roast, creamed potatoes and green beans. I literally used a tablespoon to get a bit of everything and that was enough. My husband takes Ozempic too because he is type 2 diabetic. I used to do a pound of meat and now if I do we get two to three meals out of it. I had to spend tons of money on new clothes because I didn’t have anything that fit anymore.
I was a paramedic for 35 years and also moonlighted at the trauma center as a surgical assistant. When the paramedic arrives, everything calms down and as a traumatologist in the operating room, I have everything under control. I’ve always felt the judgment of my colleagues: How good a paramedic can you be if you can’t control what you eat? It looked like a visible sign of weakness. Now, I get all these accolades all the time from people who say: God, you melt and you look great. But I almost feel guilty for taking credit for myself because I don’t feel like I’ve done anything to lose weight. I haven’t been to the gym once. I didn’t go on a “diet”. I always eat what I want to eat; I no longer eat the volume I used to eat.
My husband hasn’t lost as much weight as me. He weighed about 290 pounds. After losing 30 pounds, he hit a plateau. That’s because he wasn’t taking insulin, before he started he was just taking pills. My doctor says it wasn’t just Ozempic that caused my massive weight loss; it’s Ozempic working like it’s supposed to control blood sugar. I cut my insulin by more than half. The insulin was causing the weight gain.
I wouldn’t recommend any of my overweight friends who don’t have diabetes to take Ozempic. And it’s not suitable for slim people who want to be slimmer. But doctors are business people and if you feel you need something and your doctor won’t give it to you, what are you going to do? you will go to another doctor.