Hollywood's Weight Loss Ozempic Craze Explained By NJ Docs

A brand-name drug intended for treatment of patients with type 2 diabetes has become something of a magic medication for celebrities looking to slim down for summer.

Elon Musk, Chelsea Handler, and Jen Fessler.
Elon Musk, Chelsea Handler, and Jen Fessler. Photo Credit: The Royal Society via Wikipedia/ChelseaHandler Instagram/Michele Marie PR

While the effects of Ozempic (Semaglutide) are nothing new to doctors like Colette Knight, Chair of Hackensack University Medical Center’s Diabetes Institute, the injectable drug seems to only recently have caught on in Hollywood.

"We’ve known about weight loss benefits of Ozempic for years before it became this new, hyped medication," Knight said. "Interestingly, many years later it’s become medication of popular use."

"Real Housewives of New Jersey" cast member Jen Fessler admitted on an episode of "Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen" that she's on the popular weight loss drug.

"You said it, I didn't," she said. "But, whatever works, here I am."

Chelsea Handler admitted to Alex Cooper on the "Call Her Daddy" podcast she was on Ozempic, however, unknowingly. Elon Musk said he was fasting and on Wegovy.

There's been speculation that other celebrities including Mindy Kaling and Khloe Kardashian are also taking Ozempic, however, Kaling has neither confirmed nor denied while Kardashian denied using Ozempic.

Jimmy Kimmel joked about the popular weight loss drug in his monologue at the Oscars earlier this month: "I can’t help but wonder, ‘Is Ozempic right for me?’"

Ozempic works by slowing gastric emptying and helping patients feel fuller longer, aiding in lowering glucose levels and improving blood sugar, according to Dr. David Shaker, who specializes in internal medicine at Holy Name Medical Center. 

Ozempic has been the drug of choice for patients with type 2 diabetes since having gained FDA approval in 2017, both Shaker and Knight say. It's a well-tolerated drug with few side effects, the most obvious one being weight loss, and sometimes nausea, Knight said.

In 2021, the FDA approved a near-identical drug to Ozempic called Wegovy. Wegovy is specifically intended for weight loss while Ozempic remains for patients with diabetes, the physicians explained.

It wasn't long, though, before the pharmaceutical industry experienced a Wegovy shortage. 

"Since Ozempic was readily available, many providers — by patient request — were giving Ozempic," Knight said. "It's essentially the same drug that became sort of this extremely popular drug for weight loss."

From a safety standpoint, Shaker sees no issues in using Ozempic for weight loss.

"If you look at safety and relative to other medications in its class, there is nothing safe approved for weight loss," Shaker said, noting other weight loss drugs like Phentramine and Adipex.

The biggest question about Ozempic people seem to have is: "If I'm on Ozempic for weight loss, do I have to stay on it forever?" 

According to both Shaker and Knight, Ozempic is not a magic pill.

"Because of the way celebrities are using Ozempic, the expectation is that it's this miracle drug and you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. But if you stop the 'magic pill' without proper diet, you're going to gain the weight back.

"If you use Ozempic as training wheels, you’ll see results faster and help you deal with cravings — but you still need to choose good foods."

A healthy lifestyle is paramount when it comes to weight loss — medication or not, Knight says.

"For those people who follow dietary plan, restricting carbs or exercising, when you add a weight loss agent they can have more long lasting effects," Knight said. "Many patients who adopted healthy lifestyle changes [after having discontinued Ozempic] have kept off the weight. "

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