What's the Difference Between Wegovy and Ozempic?

Wegovy and Ozempic have a lot of similarities, but they're not exactly the same.
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Few medications have racked up as much media attention as Ozempic. It's been hailed as a miracle drug for weight loss, but there's a lot more to the story.

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It's also not the only weight-loss drug making headlines right now. Wegovy has also caused quite a stir, and many people want to know how the drugs compare.

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Both Ozempic and Wegovy may result in weight loss, but they have some key differences. We spoke to obesity medicine doctors to get to the bottom of when it makes sense to ask your doctor about Wegovy or Ozempic and what to expect when you take either drug.

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Wegovy vs. Ozempic

Ozempic

Wegovy

Active ingredient

Semaglutide

Semaglutide

What it’s approved for

Type 2 diabetes

Obesity and overweight

Cost

Varies

Varies

Dosage

Up to 2.0 mg weekly

Up to 2.4 mg weekly

How it's administered

Multi-use injection pen

Single-use injection pen

Possible side effects

Stomach pain, heartburn, gas, belching, bloating

Diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting

What Is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a brand-name drug that contains the active ingredient semaglutide. Though it's garnered a lot of attention for its possible benefits related to weight loss, it's actually intended as a medication for people with type 2 diabetes who have exhausted other treatment options.

How It Works

As a diabetes drug, Ozempic works to lower blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are high, Ozempic helps the pancreas release the appropriate amount of insulin, per the National Library of Medicine.

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"Ozempic is a long-acting glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in adult patients," says Christopher McGowan, MD, a board-certified doctor in obesity medicine.

Semaglutide, he says, mimics what the naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone does in the body, which includes stimulating insulin secretion and delaying stomach emptying. This can send a signal to the brain that you're full, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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It can also work to reduce hunger cues, which has helped some people lose weight while taking Ozempic.

"There are GLP-1 receptors in the intestines, and Ozempic can target them," says Michael Glickman, MD, a board-certified family medicine and obesity medicine physician. "Doing so creates a downstream effect of reducing general appetite and promoting early satiety."

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What It’s Approved For

Ozempic is a prescription drug for people with type 2 diabetes. It was approved by the FDA in 2017.

As long as you meet the requirements, it's widely covered by most commercial insurance plans, notes Dr. Glickman, although some require prior authorization, which can make the process more challenging.

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To qualify for an Ozempic prescription, you must have type 2 diabetes. It's usually not the first line of treatment, however. You would usually need to have tried lifestyle changes and other medications before seeking Ozempic as a management tool for type 2 diabetes.

Though it's not FDA-approved for this use, it's often used as an "off-label" drug for obesity and weight management. Because it reduces your appetite, it can help with portion control and feeling fuller after eating smaller meals, which can lead to weight loss.

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Some doctors discourage this off-label use, including Dr. McGowan, who says people with obesity can consider other options, like Wegovy.

Because Ozempic has gone viral on social media and in celebrity news, there have been shortages that have prevented people with diabetes from getting their medication, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Cost

The cost of an Ozempic prescription each month varies depending on your location and whether it's covered by insurance.

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It retails for more than $1,000 per month, according to GoodRx. However, your insurance plan may cover all or some of this cost.

You may also qualify for promotions through Ozempic, which claims that a prescription may cost you as little as $25 per month if you meet certain qualifications.

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Dosage

When it was first approved by the FDA, Ozempic had a maximum dose of 1.0 mg. In 2022, it was approved for the higher dose of 2.0 mg, says Dr. McGowan.

People taking Ozempic usually don't start at such a high dose, however. Patients are advised to start with a low dose and gradually increase it over time.

How It’s Administered

Ozempic is administered via a subcutaneous injection once per week, preferably on the same day each week. You use an injector pen that's inserted into your skin. Typically, it's injected in the stomach, arm or thigh.

Possible Side Effects

As with any medication, there are bound to be some side effects. Common side effects of Ozempic can include the following, notes the Mayo Clinic:

  • Stomach pain
  • Belching
  • Heartburn
  • Gas
  • Bloating

Side effects are not very common, says Dr. Glickman. Most adults tolerate the drug fairly well, and if any mild side effects occur, they tend to improve over time, he adds.

What Is Wegovy?

Wegovy is another brand name for the generic drug semaglutide. Unlike Ozempic, Wegovy is not intended for people with diabetes. It's actually FDA approved for obesity.

How It Works

"Wegovy works identically to Ozempic," explains Dr. Glickman, who views them synonymously.

However, Wegovy goes up to a higher dose than Ozempic, which is why it may be more effective for weight loss in some people.

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Its active ingredient, semaglutide, is a GLP-1 receptor agonist. It works by reducing your appetite, which thereby reduces your food intake and leads to weight loss.

So, how effective is it for weight loss? "Wegovy is the most effective anti-obesity medication ever approved," Dr. McGowan says. "In a pivotal clinical trial, patients lost an average of 15 percent of their body weight within 68 weeks of treatment, which was nearly double the weight loss seen with earlier anti-obesity treatments."

That clinical trial was published January 2022 in the ‌Journal of Investigative Medicine‌.

What It’s Approved For

Wegovy was FDA-approved for adults with overweight or obesity in 2021.

To qualify for Wegovy, you must meet BMI requirements for obesity, which Dr. McGowan says is a BMI of 30 or above.

Alternatively, patients with a BMI as low as 27 may qualify if they also have at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure.

It's important to note that Wegovy isn't a short-term or cosmetic treatment. People who take Wegovy do so long-term as a weight-management aid, and discontinuing the drug can result in rapid weight gain, Dr. McGowan says.

If you have a BMI below 27, you're likely not a good candidate for Wegovy, he adds.

Cost

The cost of filling a Wegovy prescription can depend on a few factors, such as whether it's covered by insurance and your location. It tends to be more expensive than Ozempic, with retail prices above $1,500, per GoodRx.

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You may not pay this much if your insurance covers part or all of your prescription and if you qualify for certain offers.

Some people pay as little as $0 a month with savings opportunities, per Wegovy.

Dosage

Wegovy is approved at a slightly higher dosage than Ozempic. It's approved for weekly doses of up to 2.4 mg, per Dr. McGowan. It comes in different dose strengths, and people are usually started off at lower doses. As they adjust, the strength is gradually increased. This also helps side effects to taper off.

How It’s Administered

Wegovy is injected into your skin much like Ozempic. You insert a pen into your arm, thigh or stomach to inject the medicine.

It's only taken once per week.

One of the differences between Wegovy and Ozempic is that Wegovy uses a single-use pen while the Ozempic pen is good for multiple uses, Dr. Glickman says.

And if you're scared of needles, he adds that a Wegovy injection is very easy to do.

Possible Side Effects

The side effects of Wegovy are very similar to Ozempic, which isn't surprising because they contain the same active ingredient. Though Wegovy can be taken at a higher dosage than Ozempic, this usually doesn't result in a noticeable difference in side effects, notes Dr. Glickman.

The following side effects can occur when taking Wegovy, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting

The Bottom Line

Ozempic and Wegovy are different brand names for the same drug, but they're FDA-approved to treat different medical conditions (type 2 diabetes vs. obesity, respectively).

Discuss with your doctor whether Wegovy or Ozempic is the right choice for you.

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