Ozempic. It has been promoted as a miracle drug, used endlessly as a Hollywood punchline, and is expected to drive nearly $5 billion in sales for pharmaceutical companies in 2023 alone. Since its release in 2017, the injectable weight loss drug and other drugs in its class have revolutionized the landscape of chronic weight management medications and are marketed as safe and incredibly effective. But as new weight loss drugs enter the market, the popularity of drugs like Ozempic and the growing buzz around them has highlighted a new problem: Ozempic shaming.
Much of the original debate surrounding Ozempic evolved from the drug’s original purpose: a complementary treatment for adults with type 2 diabetes. Ozempic, known as semaglutide, mimics the body’s GLP-1 hormone, which regulates sugar. But it also controls appetite and delays stomach emptying, making weight loss a common side effect. Since 2021, demand for the drug has created a one-month national shortage that is still ongoing. But even though the success of Ozempix has led to the development and approval of GLP-1 drugs specifically for weight loss progress, the medical community has celebrated that the cultural conversation around weight loss drugs has become increasingly toxic. .
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At first, the popularity of Ozempix sparked an online debate about whether Ozempix users who used the drug solely for weight loss were stealing the drug from diabetics. They were thieves, taking medicines that were not meant for them out of pride. Once other semaglutide alternatives were approved for weight loss, users were accused of taking the easy route. Tabloids spread rumors about dozens of celebrities who looked like they had lost weight, filling checkout aisles and timelines with before-and-after photos. Posting photos online? You better hope you don’t look too different, otherwise your comments might be filled with people asking if you were taking Ozempic. The drug changed from something you take to something you catch people taking. And even now, with thousands of patients sharing that the drug has had a positive effect on their health, people still can’t stop making fun of Ozempic users. Creating stigma around medical treatment is not only rude, but also dangerous.
But some people are protesting against Ozempix’s stigma. earlier this month, new York Times Bestselling author and Booker Prize finalist Brandon Taylor He criticized the way society has shamed Ozempic users, highlighting how other medications that are equally helpful, such as asthma inhalers or antidepressants, are not looked down upon nearly as much. I don’t know if you guys realize it or not, but you’ve developed a pretty nasty fatphobic idiom around Ozempic that somehow allows you to put people down for taking it right now. Also calling him fat, he wrote on X. In fact if anyone is looking for proof of what culture writer Ariana Rebolini said that fat people can’t win, it’s in the comments under any article about Ozempic. Real Housewives star Emily Simpson told ABC News that online commentators were more angry about her Ozempic prescription than her liposuction. And just last week, media mogul and Weight Watchers spokesperson Oprah revealed People That she was taking medication for weight loss, and was tired of feeling ashamed about it. Oprah said, the fact that I have a medically approved prescription for controlling weight and being healthy in my lifetime feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift, and not worth hiding behind and ridicule once again. There is nothing to do. I am absolutely fed up with embarrassing other people and especially myself.
Most medical organizations agree that persistent weight gain is fundamentally a medical condition. Obesity can put patients at higher risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. But patients who are overweight often struggle to receive accurate and helpful medical attention from doctors, often telling them to lose weight rather than investigating underlying genetic or historical factors. Being obese is treated as a moral failure, a lapse in self-control, rather than an aspect of human medical history. While Ozempic shame is often cloaked in the language of body positivity, the underlying belief system is one of hostility.
This does not mean that any criticism of the drug is harmful. Pharmaceutical companies profit when people use their products. As the Food and Drug Administration approves more weight loss drugs under fast-track processes, it is important to ensure that patients are as safe as possible. The internet also has a long and sordid history with body image, a problem that seems to continue with skinny influencers from Instagram or TikTok advertising dangerous crash diets to young women. And since Ozempix’s popularity is supported and driven by word of mouth and unregulated online communities, it can often feel like being public about popular trends can be dangerous. But advocating for patient safety should not feel like a public and obvious insult.
The stigma that has arisen around Ozempic has taken an already obese world to its cruelest, most cutting edge. Where people interested in weight loss medication are shamed for needing it in the first place and then humiliated if they decide to take it. This is a dilemma that people cannot avoid and should never have been included in to begin with. As research and medical consensus regarding long-term weight management continues to evolve, it is important that our cultural conversations about new innovations do not make people feel embarrassed to get the help they need. There’s a way to start a conversation about medications and their side effects without shaming the people who benefit from them. Now it’s time for us to find out.
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