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Understanding the Weight Loss Side Effects of GLP-1s

What are GLP-1s?1

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists are medications used to treat type 2 diabetes. These medications work by lowering glucose levels and helping people manage their metabolism. Essentially, they mimic hormones in our bodies that help stimulate the body to produce more insulin. This supports lowering blood sugar levels.

How do GLP-1s Affect Weight?

In recent years, some GLP-1s have also been approved for weight loss. These medications help curb hunger and slow food movement from the stomach to the small intestine. The result? Patients may feel fuller faster and longer, leading to weight loss.

Ozempic is one of the most well-known GLP-1s because it’s been in the news for its significant weight loss side effects. However, it is only approved as a type 2 diabetes treatment. Other agonists that are approved for weight loss include Wegovy, Saxenda, and Zepbound.

Common GLP-1 Peptides and Their Brand Names2  

Brand Name

Peptide

Approved For

Dosage Form

Who Can Take It?

Other Benefits

OzempicSemaglutideType 2 DiabetesWeekly InjectionAdultsHeart, Kidneys, Weight Loss
RybelsusSemaglutideType 2 DiabetesDaily PillAdultsWeight Loss
WegovySemaglutideWeight LossWeekly InjectionKids 12+; AdultsN/A
VictozaLiraglutideType 2 DiabetesDaily InjectionKids 10+; AdultsHeart, Kidneys, Weight Loss
SaxendaLiraglutideWeight LossDaily InjectionKids 12+; AdultsN/A
MounjaroTirzepatideType 2 DiabetesWeekly InjectionAdultsWeight Loss
ZepboundTirzepatideWeight LossWeekly InjectionAdultsN/A

Most GLP-1s are administered by a once-a-week injection. Generally, patients can inject the medications in the comfort of their own homes, so there is no need for weekly doctor visits.  

Another semaglutide blend intended for weight loss is Rybelsus. Currently, it is the only GLP-1 agonist that is administered as an oral pill.2

What are the Side Effects?

Though studies are ongoing, so far the list of side effects has been limited.

Some of the more common side effects include:1 
•    Nausea
•    Vomiting
•    Diarrhea
•    Constipation

Less common but more serious side effects can include:3 
•    Pancreatitis
•    Gastroparesis
•    Bowel obstruction
•    Gallstone attacks

Want to Know More About Coverage Options?

PAI understands that the cost burden of GLP-1s for diabetes management can be intense. We may offer coverage for GLP-1s for members who have received a type 2 diabetes diagnosis when step therapy has been exhausted. That means we’re here to help our members get the help they need for diabetes management when other treatment options aren’t working. Check your pharmacy benefits for your specific coverage.

Our members can get the most out of their health plans by logging in to the My Benefits Manager Member Portal. The portal includes benefit summaries, ID request options, access to claims, and pharmacy benefits, among more.

Sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/expert-answers/byetta/faq-20057955
  2. https://www.goodrx.com/classes/glp-1-agonists/glp-1-drugs-comparison
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/glp-1-diabetes-and-weight-loss-drug-side-effects-ozempic-face-and-more