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Experts warn weight-loss drug Ozempic is causing wave of loose skin surgeries

Worryingly, consumer searches for weight loss jabs and pens are also on the rise despite the market being largely unregulated
Worryingly, consumer searches for weight loss jabs and pens are also on the rise despite the market being largely unregulated

Diabetes medication Ozempic has come under scrutiny for its reported association with a significant increase in loose skin surgeries.

Initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017 as an injectable solution for adults struggling with inadequately controlled type 2 diabetes, Ozempic has since expanded its usage to include obesity treatment.

The drug, containing the active substance semaglutide, gained notable attention for its impact on weight loss, with reports surfacing on popular social media platforms such as TikTok. The hashtag #Ozempic on TikTok alone has garnered over 273 million views, contributing to a substantial uptick in prescriptions. Healthcare providers issued over 9 million prescriptions in the final quarter of 2022, indicating a surge in its popularity.

Sales figures for Ozempic in the United States exceeded $8.5bn (£6.7bn) in 2022, constituting a significant portion of global sales, amounting to 65 per cent. Projections suggest continued growth, with anticipated annual sales reaching $12.5 (£9.8bn) in 2023 and a staggering $17bn (£13.3bn) by 2029.

Despite its commercial success, Ozempic is not without its drawbacks. Concerns have been raised about its impact on facial fat and the rapid weight loss it induces. Dermatological changes, including an increase in signs of ageing such as lines and wrinkles (referred to as “Ozempic face”), a hollowed-out appearance, and lipodystrophy, have been reported.

Gediminas Samulenas, a surgeon at Nordesthetics clinic in Kaunas, Lithuania, shed light on the issue. “The active substance of Ozempic is semaglutide, which has absolutely zero direct impact on the skin. It acts by altering insulin-glucose metabolism, leading to weight loss followed by a reduction of facial volume and a relative increase in loose skin. But there is no actual effect on the skin; its laxity and looseness is a consequence of weight loss,” he explained.

Nordesthetics Clinic has reported a notable surge in visits from UK patients seeking solutions for excess skin resulting from various weight loss methods, including Ozempic. One such case saw a woman, who underwent bariatric surgery followed by a tummy tuck procedure to address the extra skin after a rapid loss of body mass.

Experts at the clinic emphasise the importance of recognising that individuals undergoing weight loss, whether through Ozempic or other means, often require excess skin removal to fully realize the benefits of their weight loss journey.

Despite these concerns, Ozempic remains a positive method for addressing obesity, contributing to weight loss by curbing hunger, prolonging the time it takes for the stomach to empty, and lowering blood sugar levels.

However, the surge in loose skin surgeries underscores the need for caution and careful consideration of potential side effects associated with the medication.