The most common myths about weight-loss drugs

May 27, 2024

(WGN Radio) – Injectable GLP-1 medications, like Ozempic, Mounjaro, Wegovy and Zepbound, have been the subject of a lot of excitement – some of it earned, some of it thanks to myths circulating about these so-called wonder drugs.

The class of drugs, which either contain semaglutide or tirzepatide, started as ways to treat diabetes, explained Dr. Sterling Elliott, a clinical pharmacist at Northwestern Medicine and assistant professor of orthopedics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Now, there are versions of the medications that are FDA-approved for weight loss and to treat obesity.

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While these types of treatments are more accessible than they have been in years prior, one misunderstanding about them is that they’re easy to get, Elliott said. A month’s supply costs around $1,000 without insurance. Patients may have luck getting insurance to cover one of the drugs if it’s being prescribed to treat diabetes, but those who want to use the medication for weight loss tend to have more trouble getting coverage.

“As we’re looking at these, we’re watching our patients have difficulty navigating through those issues,” said Elliott.

Another issue is limited availability. Almost all dosages of the four brand names are listed as “currently in shortage” by the FDA. Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company behind Zepbound and Mounjaro, told NBC News supply issues could last into 2025.

Zepbound shortage: Weight loss drugs’ limited availability to continue, Eli Lilly says

Perhaps the biggest myth of all surrounding the drugs is that they can work miracles for weight loss, without changes to diet or exercise habits.

“I think no matter what you do to lose weight, diet and exercise – healthy diet and good, solid exercise – are always going to be staples of weight loss,” Elliott said. “These drugs will help you start your way on that process. But if you don’t change your habits, you’re not going to stay that way very long.”

Listen to Dr. Elliott’s full interview with WGN Radio in the audio player below.

Studies have found that many of those who stop using the weekly injections regain much of the weight they lost.