The secret to weight loss that drug companies don't want you to know

Some of these medications don't have to break the bank.
Posted at 3:09 PM, Jun 24, 2024

Injectable drugs used for weight loss are fueling a frenzy right now, but high demand is putting a strain on availability.

Semaglutide medications were originally used to fight Type 2 diabetes. The added benefit of weight loss has caused people without diabetes to fight for its use.

But without insurance, the drugs can be costly.

Michelle Vought and Milton Shelter are both prediabetic with stressful jobs, and looking to lose weight.

Shelter suffered a knee injury while on the job. He said his extra weight made rehab on his knee harder. Vought said she's struggled with her weight and has a family history of diabetes.

The recent popularity of injectable drugs being used for weight loss triggered an urge for the couple to give it a try.

"I know that people that have taken it, it was hard for them to get it. It was expensive," Shelter said, "because of course, the insurance won't cover it."

Weight loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro, and Zepbound are all on the FDA's drug shortage list. Some of those medicines can cost around $1,000 per month out-of-pocket.

Dr. Patricia Hurford suggested Shelter and Vought each try an alternative: a compounded semaglutide.

Compounded medicines are individually made by compounding pharmacies when a drug isn't commercially available, like when the patient is allergic to an ingredient or there's a shortage of the medicine. Compounding pharmacists can single-mix semaglutide, which can cost consumers hundreds of dollars less.

However, Hurford warns that not all compounding pharmacies are safe. Since 2023, the FDA has even warned about some of the alternative ingredients used to make compounded semaglutide.

"Some of the compounding pharmacies aren't really legit and they'll sell medications that are salts of the active form, instead of the base form," Hurford warned.

She said patients should see their providers first, armed with questions so they can point them in the right direction. She also said there may be underlying conditions to solve first.

"Look for that other reason: Is it a hormone imbalance? Is it an endocrine imbalance? Is it a lifestyle imbalance? Once you can target that, then treat those conditions, and you could still use medical weight loss drugs," Hurford said.

Hurford is among many who are optimistic about these drugs. She said the drug therapy should be paired with a healthy diet and exercise.

"This is the first time I've seen reliable and effective weight loss with lifestyle changes in a population that was previously sedentary," said Hurford.

So far, Vought is happy with the results.

"I could get up out of bed and I don't hurt in the morning. My back doesn't kill me," said Vought.

"The leg is awesome," Shelter added. "I mean, I can run on it. Just the pressure off of it is so much better."

Taking medications without fully understanding the risks can be life-threatening. Make sure you talk to your doctor before taking any medications for weight loss or any other reasons.