Glucagon-like Peptide Receptor Agonist Or GLP-1 RA are medications like semaglutide. They mimic incretin which is an important appetite hormone. Incretin tells our brain we are full. GLP-1 is a specific type of incretin that also tells your pancreas to make more insulin when you eat to balance out your blood sugars. While our natural GLP-1 only has effects for minutes, this class of medication lasts for days. Semaglutide came on the market in 2021 under the brand names Wegovy for weight loss and Ozempic for Diabetes Mellitus 2.
Supply issues with these brand names and insurance coverage makes these highly effective drugs difficult for patients to get. It is given once weekly as a self injection in your abdomen through a very small needle. Serious side effects are very rare but can include pancreatitis and gallbladder problems. More common and usually mild side effects are nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. It should not be given if there is self or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or a rare condition called MEN. With patients with diabetes type 2, caution must be taken for low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.
The study that gained this drug approval showed that on average, patients taking this drug along with diet and exercise lost 15% of their weight in a 68 week study when compared to placebo. A key part too is that they kept the weight off and can be safely used for years. This landmark study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and popularity of these drugs has since spread rapidly. Safe options for weight loss were fairly limited before the onset of these peptides. As with any weight loss medication, they work best when combined with sufficient sleep (7-8 hours per night), adequate hydration (aim for half your pounds in water intake- if you weight 200 lbs, aiming for 100 ounces daily is ideal!), a lean diet and plenty of exercise.