Follow Musk? Consult doctor before using his favoured ‘weight loss’ drug


NEW DELHI: Tesla CEO Elon Musk may be a role model for many, but on weight loss, you will do well to talk to your doctor before following his example. Recently, Musk had tweeted on how fasting and a drug called Wegovy helped him be “fit, ripped and healthy”.
Wegovy is a higher dose version of the diabetes drug semaglutide. It was approved by the USFDA in June 2021 for chronic weight management in patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 kg/m2 or greater who have at least one weight-related ailment or in patients with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or greater.
Wegovy is not available in India but doctors say Musk’s claim has led to a spurt in queries for similar drugs in the country.


According to Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis C-Doc Center for Diabetes, the primary role of diabetes drugs is to keep the blood sugar levels in check but they are known to cause weight loss.
“In India, none of the diabetes drugs are licensed to be used for weight loss but we have observed a growing trend wherein people who do not have diabetes want to know about drugs meant to treat the disease so they can lose weight fast,” Dr Anoop Misra, chairman of Fortis C-Doc, said.
Dr S K Wangnoo, senior consultant, endocrinology at Indraprastha Apollo hospital, said diabetes drugs such as semaglutide or liraglutide or dulaglutide that are glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist (GLP-1RA) help lose weight by suppressing appetite. “These drugs have been in use to treat diabetes for long but recently some of them have been approved for weight loss in a higher dose in non-diabetic patients. The two important ones are liraglutide (popularly known as Saxenda) and semaglutide (Wegovy),” he said.
Dr Wangnoo said he uses some of the drugs approved for diabetes management for weight loss but in special cases only, for example in highly obese patients who are unable to shed the extra kilos by means of exercise and diet management alone. “Weekly administration of injectable drugs can help lose 8 to 10 kilograms of weight in six months. We have also seen cases where a person has been able to lose as much as 16 kg weight,” the endocrinologist said.
Dr Wangnoo, however, warned against unsupervised use of these medicines. “These drugs are known to cause side-effects such as nausea, vomiting and allergic reactions. Therefore, it should not be used over the counter. Also, sometimes patients who have a history of pancreatitis, have gallstones or those who consume alcohol can develop serious side-effects such as pancreatitis,” he added.
According to Dr S K Sarin, director of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, semaglutide injections should be taken for a year-and-a-half at most. “It is an injectable drug and known to cause side-effects such as an increased risk of developing gallstones. I would not suggest its use for weight loss in non-diabetics,” he said.


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