For Meredith Schorr, a registered nurse, working in the medical field during the coronavirus pandemic, it took a mental and physical toll.
“I wasn’t thinking about how to integrate vegetables and fruit into my diet, but rather, how I was going to save this person’s life,” Schorr, 25, told “Good Morning America.”
After gaining about 50 pounds, Schorr says he tried changing his diet and exercise routine to lose weight. When that didn’t work, Schorr said he sought professional help and saw a nurse practitioner who helps patients with weight loss.
Schorr said her nurse practitioner recommended she try semaglutide – the active ingredient in drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy.
Semaglutide is a drug that was originally approved for type 2 diabetes, but is now also allowed to be prescribed for weight loss.
“My nurse practitioner explained to me that this drug shouldn’t just be the crutch you rely on to lose weight,” says Schorr. “You should still improve your health and lifestyle habits, such as increasing your exercise and nutrition while taking this drug.”
Mounjaro and Ozempic are both approved to treat type 2 diabetes, but some doctors prescribe them “off-label” for weight loss. Wegovy is specifically approved for weight loss for people who are obese or overweight.
Medications help people produce insulin and lower the amount of sugar in their blood, which is why they help manage type 2 diabetes. They also work by slowing the movement of food through the stomach and curbing appetite, thereby causing weight loss.
Schorr says he will start taking semaglutide injections once a week in February 2022.
While people can take semaglutide under the brand names Ozempic or Wegovy, some people also access the drug through pharmacies who make their own version using the raw ingredients. That’s how Schorr said he got it.
There are risks associated with getting semaglutide through that route, as it is changeable and in many cases it is not clear where the drug is coming from.
Immediately after starting semaglutide, Schorr said he experienced side effects such as intense nausea, a common side effect of the drug, along with constipation. But she learned to manage the side effects and, soon after starting the medication, started to lose weight.
“In about two weeks, I’ve lost a few pounds,” says Schorr. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you already look like you’ve lost weight in just the first few days.'”
Schorr said he lost 50 pounds over 11 months. However, she decided to stop taking her medication in January in preparation for trying to conceive.
The class of drugs that contain semaglutide is not recommended for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. The Food and Drug Administration said in safety profiles of drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy that they should not be taken during pregnancy, noting that “insufficient data” is available.
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When Schorr stopped taking semaglutide, he said he started noticing he was gaining weight, but called the weight gain a “wake-up call”.
“I didn’t realize how hungry I would get after five to six weeks of not doing it,” says Schorr. “At first I gained about 10 pounds, but it gave me warnings like, oh yeah, I have to do my healthy lifestyle habits and all that change.”
“I’m just refocusing and making sure that I’m making healthy choices,” she said, describing how she’s maintained her health post semaglutide.
Schorr says that even with the weight gain she has experienced, semaglutide has changed her life and she is sharing her story to help break some of the stigma of medication.
In recent months, drugs containing semaglutide have grown in popularity, partly because of their reported use by celebrities.
“I really look at semaglutide as a way for me to jump-start my life back to healthy living,” says Schorr. “I’m in a completely different place.”
What to know about weight gain and semaglutide
Medical experts say it’s important to remember that semaglutide is intended as one part of a comprehensive approach to health that also includes a healthy diet and exercise.
Louis Aronne, director of the Center for Comprehensive Weight Control at Weill Cornell Medicine, told “GMA” that increased weight gain may occur after stopping semaglutide because the drug is no longer working in the body.
“Obesity is a chronic disease, just like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” says Aronne. “If you don’t take the medicine regularly, it wears off.”
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Darien Sutton, ABC News medical contributor and board-certified emergency medicine physician, said providers may be looking at different options when prescribing semaglutide to help prevent the weight gain some patients see.
“This drug has led to significant weight loss, but when stopped, patients have reported gaining up to two-thirds of that weight back,” said Sutton, citing published research. “We asked the question, do we need to change the dose? Does it need to be reduced, or do people need to keep taking it indefinitely to get those benefits?”
In addition, Sutton says people who are both active and sedentary need to maintain a healthy health routine, including diet, exercise, daily movement and quality sleep.
Sutton said the success many people have seen using semaglutide is also an important reminder that obesity is a chronic medical condition.
In the United States, obesity is a condition that affects nearly 42% of the population and is associated with more than $170 billion in medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 90% of the more than 37 million Americans with diabetes have type 2 diabetes, a condition linked to obesity, according to the CDC.
“This brings up a greater understanding of obesity as a condition than an individual or moral failure,” he said. “There are some [people] that, despite doing all of this, may have trouble losing weight, and for them, I recommend talking to a provider to review the different medications and interventions that might be able to help.”
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