Weight Loss Injections: Are They Really Safe?


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Weight loss injections have become incredibly popular in the last year or so. In fact, these medications are so widely used that there have been worldwide shortages of semaglutide, also known by the brand names Ozempic or Wegovy.

If you’re unhappy with the size of your waistline or the number on the scale, you might be considering using weight loss shots to shed a few pounds. 

And that’s understandable. Losing weight can be a difficult and long process.

There’s a reason about 42 percent of the U.S. population has obesity, and roughly 74 percent are overweight. It’s because weight loss can be tough, even for those who eat healthily and go to the gym religiously.

It’s easy to romanticize the idea of weight loss injections: You take an injection, and boom, you shed the stubborn pounds you thought you’d never drop on the treadmill. 

Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

These medications can be pretty effective, and they could help you avoid more invasive weight management therapies like bariatric surgery. But they come with a range of potential side effects and risks — not to mention the hefty price tag.

Here’s what you need to consider before using weight loss injections.

What Are Weight Loss Injections?

Injections for weight loss include semaglutide (Ozempic and Wegovy), liraglutide (Saxenda and Victoza) and tirzepatide (Mounjaro). These injections are taken either once a week or once a day and are usually self-administered by the patient (meaning you give yourself the shots at home).

Most of these medications are primarily used for type 2 diabetes, but they’re also used off-label for weight loss.

When a drug is used off-label, it means the drug itself is approved by the FDA for a particular use, but the healthcare provider is prescribing the drug for a different use. This is a legal — and common — practice for many medications.

You’ll find that most weight loss injections are made by one pharmaceutical company: Novo Nordisk. Novo Nordisk also funded some of the studies on these weight loss drugs.

Although these medications are proven to cause weight loss, it’s important to remember they’re not a silver bullet. They’re not a replacement for eating well and exercising — you’re meant to use weight loss injections alongside healthy lifestyle changes, which can include a nutritious, lower-calorie diet and exercise. Read our article on walking to lose weight for more details.

Are Injections for Weight Loss Safe?

These weight loss injections are generally considered safe to use. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks or side effects.

Since these drugs are so new, there’s a lack of long-term clinical trials looking at the safety of weight loss injections, so right now, we can only go by the available data.

On the other hand, carrying extra weight also has a number of health risks, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. These conditions are among the leading causes of preventable death.

Having extra weight is not great for your health, but for some people, weight loss injections may be riskier. 

It’s important to discuss the potential risks with a healthcare professional to determine whether using weight loss injections will be worth a try, or whether an alternative medication might be a better option for someone with your health history.

Another note: It’s possible to regain the weight you lost once you stop taking these medications, which can be pretty demotivating.

Side Effects of Weight Loss Injections

The most common side effects of weight loss injections are gastrointestinal, particularly nausea and diarrhea. You may also experience vomiting and constipation.

Over five percent of people experience nausea and diarrhea on semaglutide and liraglutide. These adverse reactions also affect up to 10 percent of people who use tirzepatide.

Other side effects include:

  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue 

  • Headaches

  • Hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar)

  • Indigestion 

  • Mild tachycardia (fast heartbeat)

  • Itching or redness at the site of the injection

It may be a good idea to keep some supplies on hand in case you experience gastrointestinal issues or other side effects. For example, you could get over-the-counter medication for nausea, diarrhea and headaches. Home remedies like ginger tea might also help you feel better.

(RelatedWeight Loss Injections: Are They Safe?)

Risks of Weight Loss Injections

There’s a risk that weight loss injections can cause serious health problems. Although these issues are rare, they’re possible.  

These risks include:

  • Allergic reaction to the drug

  • Complications with diabetic retinopathy (an eye condition occurring in people with diabetes)

  • Dehydration 

  • Gallbladder disease  

  • Kidney issues

  • Pancreatitis

  • Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)

  • Thyroid cancer

Weight loss injections also have certain contraindications, meaning some people shouldn’t use them.

You can’t use weight loss injections if you have any of the following:

  • Type 1 diabetes

  • Diabetic retinopathy

  • Family or personal history of thyroid tumors, especially medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)

  • A history of pancreatitis

  • Gallstones or other gallbladder diseases

  • Kidney disease

There isn’t much research on how safe weight loss injections are during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

In some cases, a healthcare provider will determine a medication is worth prescribing when the benefits outweigh the potential risks (treating diabetes, for example). But this is definitely something you’ll want to discuss with your provider rather than Googling whether it’s okay.

Also, since weight loss injections delay gastric emptying, they can affect how your body processes medications — including contraceptive pills. It’s important to discuss your current medications with a healthcare professional, as it might be necessary to use a different type of contraceptive while using weight loss injections.

Possible Weight Gain After Stopping Weight Loss Injections

Another thing to keep in mind is that, like other methods of weight loss, you can regain the weight after using weight loss injections.

In the 2022 study mentioned above, researchers found that people gained most of their weight back after stopping semaglutide for a year. These participants regained an average of two‐thirds of their prior weight loss, highlighting the importance of ongoing treatment.

What Is the Best Injection for Weight Loss?

If you’ve done your research, spoken with a provider, considered all the risks and side effects, and decided that you’d like to consider weight loss injections, you’ll have some choices to make. 

According to much of the research we currently have, tirzepatide appears to have the edge over its competitors when it comes to the effectiveness of injections for weight loss. But the story is slightly different when it comes to side effects and safety. 

For instance, one 2022 trial compared the weight loss effects of semaglutide with liraglutide. This trial looked at 338 non-diabetic adults who had obesity or were overweight. Participants received counseling for diet and physical activity as well as either semaglutide or liraglutide injections.

The study found that once-weekly semaglutide injections were more effective for weight loss than once-daily liraglutide. On average, participants lost 15.8 percent of their body weight with semaglutide and 6.4 percent of their body weight with liraglutide over 68 weeks.

A 40-week trial looked at the effects of tirzepatide versus semaglutide in people with type 2 diabetes. Although the goal of the trial wasn’t to measure weight loss, researchers noted that participants who used tirzepatide lost more weight than those who used semaglutide.

But if you’re concerned about safety and side effects, the story is slightly different. 

The same study also found that five to seven percent of patients who used tirzepatide experienced serious side effects, as opposed to only three percent of those who received semaglutide.

Still, further research needs to be done before there’s an official consensus on which weight loss injection is more effective, and which is more safe. 

And when considering the best weight loss injection, it’s also crucial to consider the cost of the medication.

How Much Do Weight Loss Injections Cost?

Typically, a one-month supply of brand-name weight loss injections costs as follows:  

  • Ozempic (1.5 milliliters): $995

  • Wegovy (2 milliliters): $1,430  

  • Mounjaro (2 milliliters): $1,087  

  • Victoza (6 milliliters): $794

  • Saxenda (15 milliliters): $1,430  

Of course, the price will vary depending on the pharmacy you visit and the dosage you’re prescribed. But there are a few things to keep in mind when considering cost.

First, weight loss medications are meant to be taken continuously. It’s not safe to stop using the medication when you run out of cash and restart when you can afford it. So, the cost of the medication can impact the safety of your experience if it means you won’t be able to continue to use it as prescribed. 

Second, health insurance policies seldom cover weight loss injections. Most insurance companies don’t cover newer weight loss medications, including treatments like semaglutide, liraglutide and tirzepatide.

Since weight loss injections cost quite a lot, they’re not accessible to most people.

Let’s be real — few of us have an extra $1,000 to $1,500 to spend every month. But if you do have the cash and are struggling to get rid of excess weight, it might be worth talking to a provider. 

(RelatedWeight Loss Medications: Are They Effective?)

Safe Alternatives to Weight Loss Injections

Weight loss injections come with quite a few side effects, and many people might not feel that it’s safe to take. If you’re concerned about the safety of weight loss injections, or if the side effects have been too intense for you, you might want to consider some alternatives.

Alternatives to weight loss injections include:

  • Metformin.  Metformin is used for treating diabetes 2, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and obesity. While safe, up to 30 percent of people who take metformin experience gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  

  • Naltrexone-bupropion. An FDA-approved weight loss medication, naltrexone-bupropion is generally considered effective and safe to use. You may, however, experience side effects like dizziness, mood changes, trouble sleeping and headaches.  

  • Phentermine-topiramate. This is a combination of an appetite suppressant called phentermine and an anticonvulsant called topiramate. Topiramate is used to treat seizures and migraines. Phentermine-topiramate is effective for weight loss and seems to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.  

It’s important to remember, though, that what is safe for one person might not be safe for the next person. All medications have potential side effects, and you might tolerate some of the above drugs better than others. A healthcare professional can help determine which weight loss medications will be safest for you.

Weight loss is a multi-pronged system that requires balance, discipline and — when necessary — medication. While weight loss medications can speed up weight loss, they don’t replace healthy habits. In fact, they’re usually prescribed alongside a healthy diet and frequent exercise.

The safest alternative to weight loss medications is a healthy lifestyle. While frequent exercising and eating a balanced diet doesn’t automatically lead to weight loss for everyone, they are still necessary components of self-care. These habits aren’t just good for losing weight, but for your overall health and well-being.

Weight Loss Injections: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Given the media hype around medications like Ozempic and Wegovy, you’d be forgiven for thinking weight loss injections are an instant cure-all. 

Though weight loss injections can help you slim down significantly, there are a few drawbacks to consider before taking that prescription to the pharmacy. 

  • Weight loss injections don’t replace healthy eating and exercise. If you’re considering weight loss injections, you’re probably already tired of dieting and exercising. But it’s still important to eat a balanced diet and work out while using this type of medication, not only for your waistline but for your overall well-being.

  • The side effects of weight loss injections are real. Nausea and diarrhea are common with weight loss injections. There’s also a risk of dizziness, fatigue and headaches. Rarer (but more serious) health risks include kidney issues, pancreatitis and dehydration.

  • Weight loss injections cost a pretty penny. Between $1,000 and $1,500 a month, to be exact. And since it’s possible to regain the weight you lost, it’s vital to ensure you have enough cash to stay on the medication for the long haul.

Losing weight can be a tedious and complicated process, especially if you have a health condition that affects your metabolism.

This article originally appeared on Forhers.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Weight Loss Medications: Are They Actually Effective?

Weight Loss Medications: Are They Actually Effective?

It’s common knowledge that managing your weight keeps you healthy now and as you get older. In fact, obesity contributes to several health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Not only was the prevalence of obesity in U.S. adults nearly 42 percent in 2017, but the estimated medical costs for adults with obesity were almost $2,000 more each year than for adults who do not have obesity .

Those who have a body mass index (BMI, or the measurement of fat based on height and weight) between 25 and 30 are considered overweight, while those with a BMI over 30 are considered to have obesity.

You’ve probably heard of a few weight loss medications, or at least their brand names, like Ozempic® and Wegovy®. However, there are several other prescription drugs available that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and frequently prescribed off-label for weight loss.

Healthcare providers may prescribe these medications to someone who has obesity or is overweight with a weight-related health problem like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.


You’re probably familiar with one of semaglutide’s brand names, Ozempic — other brand names for this drug include Wegovy and Rybelsus®.

Ozempic is approved by the FDA to treat type 2 diabetes and may be prescribed off-label for weight loss, in combination with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise or with other diabetes medications like insulin or metformin.

Wegovy, meanwhile, is a prescription medication approved for use for weight loss in people who have obesity or who are overweight.

Ozempic and Wegovy are in a class of medication called GLP-1 receptor agonists, which mimic the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 and target areas of the brain that regulate appetite.

Ozempic was approved by the FDA in 2017, while Wegovy was granted approval to pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk more recently, in 2021.


Although only approved by the FDA to treat diabetes, metformin is often used off-label for weight loss, as well as gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy) and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

It isn’t exactly clear how metformin helps people lose weight, but researchers think the drug works as an appetite suppressant. Similarly to Ozempic, metformin may increase how much GLP-1 hormone your body makes. This can send a signal to your brain that you’re full, which means you eat fewer calories.

Read our blog to learn about Ozempic vs. Metformin for weight loss.

(Related: Metformin For Weight Loss: Does It Work?)

Tatsiana Niamera/istockphoto

If you’ve dealt with depression or looked into medication to quit smoking, bupropion may sound familiar to you.

For weight loss, it can be combined with the drug naltrexone, which is used to treat alcohol and drug dependence, to curb your hunger or make you feel fuller sooner. Together, these medications work on two areas of the brain, the hunger center and the reward system, to reduce appetite and help control cravings.

Along with a reduced calorie diet and exercise plan, naltrexone-bupropion can also help keep excess weight off.


Phentermine-topiramate is actually two separate medications that are combined in Qsymia, but are offered separately in other applications. 

While phentermine is considered an anorectic and topiramate is an anticonvulsant, both help with appetite suppression.

Topiramate offers the added benefit of helping you feel fuller longer after you eat.

When used specifically with a healthy exercise regimen and a reduced calorie diet, these medications — either together or separately — have been shown to help people lose weight and keep it off.


Orlistat, which belongs to a class of medications known as lipase inhibitors, reduces the amount of fat your body absorbs from the food you eat.

Orlistat is used for weight loss in conjunction with exercise and a reduced-calorie diet, as well as after weight loss to help people keep from gaining back that weight.

While the brand name Xenical requires a prescription, another brand called Alli is available in a lower dosage without one.


Like Ozempic and Wegovy, liraglutide is an injected weight loss medication. It works as a GLP-1 receptor agonist to suppress appetite, similarly to semaglutide.

Also available under the brand name Victoza at a lower dose, this drug is FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes.

(Related: Weight Loss Injections: Are They Safe?)


These weight loss drugs are all available with a prescription from a healthcare professional, but how effective are they really?

  • One study found that when people without diabetes took a weekly semaglutide injection they had a higher average weight loss — almost a 15 percent average decrease in weight — than people who took a placebo.

  • Metformin has also demonstrated clinically significant weight loss. A 2020 meta-analysis of 21 trials testing metformin found the drug had a modest impact on lowering BMI, especially for those who are considered to have obesity.

  • smaller study on metformin also found that the average amount of weight lost in 154 patients was between 5.6 and 7 kgs (that’s roughly between 13 and 15 pounds).

It’s also worth mentioning cost here — if you can’t afford the drug you need to take, it’s effectiveness essentially drops to zero percent. That said, there’s some wide price disparity between weight loss drugs. 

For instance, injectibals like Ozempic and Wegovy are generally more expensive than orals like metformin — namely because metformin is a generic medication that’s been around for decades, and Ozempic and Wegovy are newer. 

Liudmila Chernetska/istockphoto

Because everyone’s weight loss journey is different, weight loss medications may work slowly for some people and faster for others.

How long you need to take a weight loss prescription drug depends on various factors such as what side effects you experience, how much weight you need to lose, whether the drug helps keep the weight off and more.

Generally, as found in the studies noted above and clinical trials, weight loss will occur within the first few months of using the medication.

Sometimes your health care professional may recommend long-term use of the medication, while other people may be advised to stop the drug if they don’t lose a certain amount of weight after 12 weeks.

If you’re taking a weight loss medication, your healthcare provider will likely suggest that you also increase your physical activity and make healthy lifestyle changes like eating lots of protein and fiber and getting enough sleep. These medications are the most effective when combined with healthy habits.

Jorge Elizaquibel/istockphoto

Just like any medication, weight loss drugs also come with the possibility of side effects.

When it comes to injectibal drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, there are some broad side effects that apply to all injectibals — like swelling, redness or other discomfort at the injection site — but generally, the side effects profiles of these drugs are similar regardless of delivery method.

The most common side effects of many of these weight loss medications include:

  • Stomach pain or constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

Some, like liraglutide and naltrexone-bupropion, may cause an increased heart rate or headaches.

Liraglutide and semaglutide may also increase the risk of pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas). You may also have a higher risk of developing tumors or thyroid cancer when using liraglutide or semaglutide, although these serious side effects are very rare.


There’s a good chance you’ve heard of weight loss medications like Ozempic or even Wegovy, but there’s also a good chance that the headlines and celebrity-focused articles didn’t answer all your questions. Here’s what you need to know about whether they’re effective.

  • There are several FDA-approved weight loss drugs, including semaglutide, orlistat, phentermine-topiramate, naltrexone-bupropion and liraglutide. Metformin is another common medication used off-label for weight management.

  • These drugs all work slightly differently, but many decrease your appetite and help you stick to a lower-calorie diet. Healthcare providers often recommend they be used alongside regular exercise and healthy habits to maximize sustained weight loss.

  • However, there are side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation and, for the injectibals, injection-side irritation, injury or discomfort. Often, these are mild and serious side effects rarely happen.

  • Cost is also worth considering. Injectibals like Ozempic and Wegovy can generally cost anywhere from $800 to $1,000 per prescription, where a generic like metformin can be had for a fraction of that — usually for under $100 a month.

There’s no one “best weight loss medication” — there’s only what’s best for your particular needs. If you’re curious about medication for weight loss, you can talk to your healthcare provider for medical advice and to explore your options. And if you’re interested in other weight loss treatments online, we can help. 

This article originally appeared on Forhers.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.



Featured Image Credit: CR/istockphoto.