Patients have revealed the dark side of weight-loss drugs that are flying off shelves and making headlines for their fat-shedding abilities. DailyMail.com spoke to five patients aged from their 30s to their 70s in the US, Canada, and UK who say Ozempic and similar medications ‘broke’ them mentally and physically.
They include a mother who went into kidney failure on her daughter’s birthday and a man whose sister begged him not to attempt suicide for the third time after Ozempic ‘ruined’ his life.
Despite the drugs being hailed as a panacea for the obesity crisis gripping most Western nations, very little is known about the long-term effects.
Beverly Graves, 54, started taking Wegovy and later Saxenda for weight loss. While on Saxenda, she went into kidney failure, which she believes was caused by the medication
Already in 2023, doctors have doled out more than 800,000 prescriptions for Ozempic’s sister drug Wegovy
Health agencies are now investigating reports of suicidal thoughts, and Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, which manufacture Ozempic and Mounjaro, respectively, are being sued for claims that the drugs cause stomach paralysis.
Beverly Graves, 54, from Tennessee, started taking Wegovy last January for weight loss. Her medication was constantly out of stock or on backorder, so she alternated between Wegovy and Saxenda.
Ms Graves, who has had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for 30 years, wasn’t warned about potential side effects to her digestive tract.
On Wegovy, she became severely constipated. ‘I couldn’t go to the bathroom at all,’ she said. ‘I’d been constipated for like two weeks. It was terrible.’
‘I lost 10 pounds on my own. I lost 20 pounds through these two different drugs, but I didn’t feel any better because I was miserable.’
After a few months, Ms Graves went on Saxenda.
‘I took it two days, and I felt so bad,’ she said.
She found herself constantly burping and needing to spit. However, her condition took a turn for the worse when suddenly she couldn’t urinate.
Ms Graves was admitted to the hospital, where doctors told her she was in kidney failure.
‘I almost died on my daughter’s birthday,’ she said.
Now seeking therapy because she is ‘getting more anxiety than ever,’ Ms Graves believes that the weight-loss drugs caused her kidney failure, as well as a diagnosis of fatty liver disease.
She wishes doctors would have asked her about her history with IBS before prescribing her these drugs because it could have prevented the entire thing.
‘Nobody asked me anything. I just said, «What’s that weight loss stuff that people are taking? Can I take that?» And they were like, «Yeah, I’ll give you a prescription.» That’s it,’ Ms Graves said.
‘To me, it’s just extremely dangerous.’
Ozempic and Wegovy are brand names for the medicine semaglutide, which suppresses appetite and triggers weight loss.
The drugs bind to the GLP-1 receptor, a protein that triggers hormones in the brain that keep the stomach full and tell the body to stop eating and avoid cravings.
Already in 2023, doctors have doled out more than 800,000 prescriptions for Ozempic’s sister drug Wegovy.
Saxenda uses the active ingredient liraglutide. While liraglutide is mostly similar, some studies suggest semaglutide is more effective for weight loss.
However, there’s little long-term data on GLP-1 agonists.
Wegovy and Saxenda are FDA approved for weight loss and type 2 diabetes, whereas Ozempic is approved only for diabetes.
Despite surging across the US, there have been widespread fears about Ozempic, which has been linked to detrimental side effects like severe vomiting and suicidal thoughts.
Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, manufacturers of Ozempic and sister drug Wegovy, have also come under fire in a lawsuit over claims the drugs cause gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis.
The FDA has also received at least 60 reports of suicidal thoughts among people taking Ozempic and Wegovy.
Clay Emms, 53, from England, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes eight years ago. To help control his disease, doctors put him on Ozempic.
While he lost about 60 pounds during the two years he was on Ozempic, he said, ‘it came at a price.’
After a year on the drug, Mr Emms started suffering severe gastrointestinal problems and ‘horrific’ night sweats.
‘These were so bad that I tried to kill myself twice,’ he said.
‘Mentally, it’s left me broken.’
Mr Emms said that if his sister had not begged him, he likely would have attempted suicide a third time.
The symptoms were so severe that he was convinced he had cancer, which had claimed the lives of several family members.
‘I lost my mum, dad, and little sister through cancer and was convinced cancer had come for me. I was happy in the thought of being with them again,’ Mr Emms said.
Over the next few months, he ended up in the hospital three times. Doctors believed he had a virus but offered few options to help.
‘No one had a clue what was wrong with me,’ he said.
Mr Emms has since stopped taking Ozempic, and his symptoms have subsided, but the experience had left him with ‘horrible depression and anxiety.’
When a friend asked him if she should take Ozempic, he told her: ‘Do not under any circumstances take Ozempic.’
He has also gained all of the weight back and is now unable to work.
‘It’s utterly ruined my life, and I am absolutely petrified of getting these awful cold sweats again,’ he said.
‘I fear if they ever come back, I will probably end it all. To me, they’re worse than death.’
‘No good came from taking Ozempic. In fact, it’s been absolutely detrimental to my physical and mental well-being.’
‘I just want my life to get back to normality. Life is for living, but now it feels stale and stagnant.’
Peter Massey, 64, started taking Ozempic a year ago for his type 2 diabetes. He has since had nausea, vomiting, and ‘no desire to eat.’ However, he views the drug as necessary to control his diabetes, so despite the side effects, he plans to stay on it
Peter Massey, 64, a retired police officer turned college professor in Florida, started taking Ozempic about a year ago to help control his type 2 diabetes.
‘It melted the weight off of me,’ he said. Within a few months, Mr Massey went from about 210 pounds to 183.
However, it came with a host of drastic side effects, nausea, vomiting, and reduced appetite, which has left him with ‘no desire to eat.’
When Mr Massey went off the medication, his vomiting stopped. However, his blood sugar spiked, forcing him to back on it.
After a one-month break, he went back on Ozempic, and his symptoms returned ‘instantaneously.’
He now believes he has no other choice but to stay on the medication if it means keeping his blood sugar in check.
‘I’ve made the decision to deal with it,’ he said.
Linda Walsh, 75, from Cork, Ireland, was told she had to lose weight to alleviate her severe arthritis and avoid getting a double knee replacement.
‘If I didn’t lose a lot of weight, I would need two new knees,’ she said.
After a few days on Ozempic, she started having severe back pains, chills, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
The doctor said her side effects were normal and would subside.
‘»Take some paracetamols» was her advice,’ Ms Walsh said.
Later in the week, she was projectile vomiting, despite not eating anything. She was admitted to the hospital and had to cancel her 75th birthday celebration for that weekend.
‘I cannot believe one low dose of Ozempic could cause so much horror in 11 days,’ she said.
Linda Walsh, 75, was prescribed Ozempic for weight loss. After a few days, she was projectile vomiting. ‘I can truthfully say I will never touch this again,’ she said
‘I can truthfully say I will never touch this again.’
‘I’m 75 and certainly don’t need this extra health burden given to me.’
Ms Walsh’s partner had booked an appointment to discuss Ozempic with his doctor. He cancelled after Ms Walsh’s health scare.
Ashley Keenan, 37, a freelance writer from Ontario, Canada, started taking Ozempic in 2020 to control her type 2 diabetes.
‘I was told it would help stabilize my blood sugars by reducing my insulin resistance, and it had a little-known side effect of weight loss,’ she said.
‘When they added Ozempic, I lost weight immediately. It melted off me without effort or diet changes.’
‘I had been heavy my whole life; to me, it seemed like a miracle.’
Ms Keenan lost 30 pounds in two months, but her blood sugar rapidly started climbing.
She started having cramps and abdominal pain, and her appetite was completely gone.
Doctors blamed it on IBS or her menstrual cycle.
‘Not once did any of my doctors suggest that the new medication Ozempic might be the cause. Someone should have noticed what was happening to me. I was asking for help,’ Ms Keenan said.
Two weeks before her 35th birthday, in 2021, she realized something was wrong. She was unable to keep food down for several days and was afraid to go to the hospital amid Covid concerns.
‘Things got really bad,’ Ms Keenan said. ‘My memories of those days are blurry. I was so weak at one point I just started vomiting directly on my bed. I was too exhausted to lean over to the bucket at my bedside.’
‘My husband begged me to go to the hospital but I wouldn’t. It wasn’t until I lost consciousness and cut myself on some glass that I was rushed to the ER.’
‘They struggled to save my life.’
Ashley Keenan, 37, started taking Ozempic in 2020 to help control her type 2 diabetes. While she was her thinnest since age 18, her blood sugar spiked
Ms Keenan’s potassium got so low that her heart stopped. She spent 10 days in the ICU with gallstones, pancreatitis, and diabetic ketoacidosis
Ms Keenan’s potassium was so low that her heart stopped. She spent 10 days in the intensive care unit with gallstones, pancreatitis- inflammation of the pancreas- and diabetic ketoacidosis.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a diabetes complication that occurs when the body can’t produce enough insulin, which makes it break fat down as fuel. This causes acids to accumulate in the bloodstream.
Left untreated, DKA can be fatal.
‘For the first 48 hours, they weren’t sure if I would make it. I can’t tell you how strange it is to have doctors visit you from the ER to see if I lived,’ Ms Keenan said.
‘My body had become acidic, and my organs were shutting down.’
Doctors told her that Ozempic had ‘likely’ caused the gallstones and pancreatitis, which then led to DKA.
‘I almost died,’ she said. ‘I live every day with PTSD from my near-death experience and being in the ICU for so long.’
‘I am not the same person I was before I nearly died,’
‘Mentally and physically, I am still recovering from my experience with Ozempic.’
Ms Keenan said while the medication did help her lose weight, it didn’t do the one thing it was supposed to do: lower her A1c, or her average glucose levels.
‘For me, Ozempic was not worth it,’ she said.