This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Last week, a number of patients emailed me regarding their concerns about this phenomenon known as Ozempic face. I went on to read about what this meant. I live in Los Angeles, where most people appear to be on semaglutide (Ozempic). It's the phenomenon where people lose weight relatively rapidly, making their faces thin out. Then what happens, apparently, is they look older because their face is more wrinkled and baggier. They might have to have further plastic surgery. I say that with slight sarcasm because of where I live.
I want to talk about what I think about this, living here where there's a great pressure to prescribe semaglutide off label, and what I think about it for my patients with diabetes.
Historically, we haven't had much in terms of effective medication for treating obesity, and frankly, now we do. We now have agents that are effective, that have relatively few side effects, and that have become part of what's out there. People now want to use these agents, semaglutide, and there's been a great need for these agents.
The problem, however, is twofold. One, as we all know, is that it has basically caused a shortage of medication for treating our patients who actually have type 2 diabetes and really need these medications to manage their disease. Then we have people who want these medications who can't pay for them. Insurance doesn't cover obesity medications, which is problematic and actually quite frustrating for people who, I think, really would benefit from using these medications.
What I tell people, frankly, is that until I have enough supply for my patients with type 2 diabetes, who need these agents to control their blood sugars, I want to keep this class of drugs available to them. I also hope we're able to expand it more and more with improving insurance coverage — and that's a big if, if you ask me — both for people who have pre-diabetes and for patients who are overweight and obese, because I think it's really hard for people to lose weight.
It's frustrating, and for many people, being overweight and obese causes all sorts of other health issues, not only diabetes. I believe that these drugs are both safe and effective and should be more available. I do think we need to be careful in terms of who we prescribe them to, at least at the moment. Hopefully, we'll be able to expand their use.
Anything that can encourage our population to lose weight and maintain that weight loss is very important. We need to couple weight loss medications with lifestyle interventions. I think people can out-eat any medication; therefore, it's very important to encourage our patients to eat better, to exercise more, and to do all the other things they need to do to reduce their risks for other comorbidities.
I am incredibly happy to have these newer agents on the market. I tell my patients — at least those who have diabetes — that they have to accept looking a little bit too thin for the benefits that we can see in using these medications.
Anne L. Peters, MD, is a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) Keck School of Medicine and director of the USC clinical diabetes programs. She has published more than 200 articles, reviews, and abstracts, and three books, on diabetes, and has been an investigator for more than 40 research studies. She has spoken internationally at over 400 programs and serves on many committees of several professional organizations.
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Cite this: 'Ozempic Face': Accepting Wrinkles for Improved Health - Medscape - Feb 03, 2023.