How Long Can You Take Ozempic for Weight Loss?

Find out how Ozempic works as a weight loss drug, what to know before taking it, and how long you can safely use it.

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by
Isabella Buchter
— Signos
Health Writer
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Reviewed by

Isabella Buchter
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
April 12, 2024
— Updated:
April 12, 2024

Table of Contents

For the typical American, the most crucial aspects of losing weight are forming healthy lifestyle habits like regular physical activity, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and a good mindset. However, some people require pharmacological treatment to achieve their health goals. In these cases, and in the cases of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, medications like Ozempic can be a crucial part of a person’s journey to lose weight and improve their health. 

Ozempic is a pharmaceutical drug developed specifically to treat type 2 diabetes. It contains the active ingredient semaglutide, which is in the class of medications known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 agonists). GLP-1 agonists help treat type 2 diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels and appetite. These combined effects can contribute to weight management and help manage the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. 

This article delves into how Ozempic works biologically, how long you can take it, and what happens when you stop.

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Understanding How Ozempic Works

In response to rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes, people have put substantial efforts into developing the right methods and medications to help with weight loss and regulate insulin and blood sugar levels. Ozempic is one of these medications that was developed to treat type 2 diabetes. It was developed by Novo Nordisk and approved by the FDA in 2017. It has been proven to improve blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in adults with type 2 diabetes, as well as reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events such as stroke or heart attack.1

Ozempic has gained considerable attention for its effectiveness as a treatment, but what exactly makes it so effective, and how does it work in the body? 

Ozempic is an injectable medication that is designed to be taken once a week. The active ingredient in Ozempic is semaglutide, which acts as a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. GLP-1 is a hormone that is naturally produced in the intestine and promotes insulin production while also reducing glucagon production, allowing glucose to be taken out of the blood and into cells. Semaglutide is a pharmacological drug that mimics the effects of the naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone. This means that after you eat and your glucose levels start to rise, GLP-1 receptor agonists like semaglutide help your pancreas to produce more insulin and less glucagon, effectively lowering your blood glucose levels. GLP-1 receptor agonists also reduce appetite by slowing the emptying of your stomach and signaling to your brain that you feel full.2

These effects, such as reducing appetite and increasing feelings of fullness, can also lead to weight loss as a result of taking the medication. However, Ozempic is not specifically approved as a weight loss drug.3 Semaglutide at a higher dose is sold as a weight loss drug under the name Wegovy.4

Although Ozempic is not labeled as a weight loss medication, it is sometimes prescribed by doctors off-label to be used for weight loss. In general, though, Ozempic is less effective than Wegovy for weight loss because Wegovy contains a higher dosage of the active ingredient, semaglutide. In a clinical trial that compared the use of semaglutide in 1 mg (the maintenance dosage of Ozempic) and 2.4 mg (the maximum dosage of Wegovy) doses, the higher dose of semaglutide 2.4 mg caused the most weight loss.5

How Long Can You Really Be on Ozempic?

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Ozempic is designed as a long-term medication. It is meant to treat chronic diseases, and a person can stay on the medication indefinitely as long as they are tolerating it well. When prescribed Ozempic, your healthcare provider will discuss how long you should use it, depending on factors such as your health goals, medical conditions, and how well you respond to it. 

While Ozempic is meant to be a long-term medication and shows the best results when taken continually, many people take the medication for a year or less. One study has shown that only 32% of people who are prescribed GLP-1 agonist drugs like Ozempic stay on them for more than a year.6 This could be for many reasons, including the fact that some people experience side effects that require them to stop the medication, or the cost becomes unaffordable. In addition, people may see their weight loss plateauing and think that the drugs have stopped working, or the medication might not work as a person expected it to, causing them to quit taking it.

While there are no restrictions to how long or short you can take Ozempic, we recommend that you follow the guidelines of your doctor or healthcare provider, and what they recommend for you. 

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href="what-happens-if-you-stop-taking-ozempic">What Happens if You Stop Taking Ozempic? Ozempic Withdrawal Explained</a>.</p>

Potential Risks of Long-Term Ozempic Usage

Ozempic is intended to be taken long-term or even lifelong. That being said, healthcare providers prescribing Ozempic don’t yet know the long-term effects of the medication. At this point, the longest clinical trials of Ozempic are only about two years long.7 

A study in mice and rats showed that semaglutide increased the incidence of thyroid C-cell tumors. There is also a low risk of developing pancreatitis. In several control trials, some patients experienced pancreatitis, and it is recommended that doctors observe Ozempic patients closely for signs of pancreatitis.1 However, these are both minimal risks, and currently, there are no major safety concerns regarding taking Ozempic. 

Downsides of Stopping Ozempic at Any Time

While medications like Ozempic might seem like a miracle drug for diabetes, the reality is that the medication must be paired with lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and exercise to be the most effective. In addition, the effects of the medication only last while you continue to take the medication. If you stop Ozempic, you will no longer experience the effects of semaglutide, which means you will likely start to get more extreme hunger cravings and reduced blood sugar control. Studies have shown that the beneficial effects of Ozempic, including improved metabolic health, blood sugar regulation, and weight loss, will likely not be maintained if you stop taking Ozempic.

In one study, patients who stopped using 2.4 mg of semaglutide once weekly regained two-thirds of their weight loss, and cardiometabolic improvements reverted to pre-weight-loss levels.8 In another study, patients who took 2.4 mg of semaglutide once weekly lost about 10% of their body weight. When they stopped the medication a year later, they had gained back 7% of their body weight.9

Therefore, ongoing treatment with Ozempic and any semaglutide medications is likely required to maintain the improvements you see in your weight loss and metabolic health.

What to Consider Before Starting on Ozempic

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Before starting Ozempic, it is most important to communicate with your healthcare provider about your past medical conditions, metabolic health, and your goals for using the medication. Some people can’t take Ozempic if they have certain medical conditions, so it is best to communicate all medical history to your doctor. 

When prescribed Ozempic, your doctor will likely start you at the lowest dose, 0.25 mg, and then increase the dose every four weeks. Results can vary, but most people see results in a month to five weeks.

It is also important to consider that Ozempic is not a cure for obesity or diabetes alone. To get the best results and lose weight, Ozempic must be combined with lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise. It is best to start working on these habits early, perhaps even before starting Ozempic, so that when you transfer onto the medication, these habits and lifestyle practices are already in place. 

Learn More About How to Improve Blood Sugar Health With Signos’ Expert Advice

Changing your lifestyle habits and choosing the right medications for diabetes management, health, and weight loss can be challenging, especially because your body is unique, and what works for others might not work for you. Signos provides insight into how your body responds to everything from food to medications and helps you form healthy habits that will last. With these insights paired with Signos’ experts’ advice, you’ll be able to make small changes that can lead to optimal metabolic health. You can learn more about glucose levels on Signos’ blog. Find out if Signos is a good fit for you by taking a quick quiz.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href="ozempic-foods-to-avoid">7 Foods to Avoid to Manage Ozempic Side Effects</a>.</p>

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About the author

Isabella Buchter is a scientific writer and Marketing Content Coordinator at Signos with a degree in biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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