What is semaglutide?
Semaglutide is a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity. This prescription medication works by increasing insulin levels in the body, which decreases blood glucose (sugar). Semaglutide also targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and signals you to feel full, which suppresses appetite and can result in weight-loss.
Semaglutide is a prescription medication, not a dietary supplement. It should only be used under the supervision of a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your medical history.
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three semaglutide products: Ozempic®, Rybelsus®, and Wegovy®. Ozempic and Wegovy are injected under the skin once per week, and Rybelsus is taken orally, once-daily. These medications are only available with a prescription, and there are no approved generic versions.
When used in addition to diet and exercise:
- Wegovy is approved for chronic weight management in adults and children (12 years and older) with obesity.
- Wegovy can be used to help overweight adults who have other weight-related medical problems (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol) lose weight.
- Ozempic and Rybelsus have been approved to improve blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes.
- Ozempic may be used to reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, or death in adults with type 2 diabetes and known heart disease.
Can Service Members use semaglutide?
In general, military regulations do not authorize the routine use of prescription medications for weight-loss. However, weight-loss medications may be approved under very specific conditions. Semaglutide is available in the Department of Defense (DoD) Tricare Formulary for individuals who meet certain criteria and have an approved medical necessity or prior authorization form.
- Service Members should ensure that all medications are recorded in their military health record, especially prescriptions that aren’t received from a Medical Treatment Facility (MTF).
- If you go to a civilian healthcare provider who prescribes a weight-loss prescription drug, be sure to take your prescription to an MTF pharmacy.
- If your MTF pharmacy cannot fill a prescription from a civilian provider, consult with your MTF before having the prescription filled elsewhere.
- Continued use of these medications might not be authorized during various training, deployment, or operational platforms. Service members need to discuss potential operational, training, and deployment impacts with their DoD medical officer before taking these medications.
Are there side effects of taking semaglutide?
Common adverse reactions of semaglutide include:
- Abdominal pain
What are some important warnings about semaglutide use?
- Risk of thyroid C-cell tumors. When laboratory animals were given semaglutide, they developed tumors. It’s unknown if this medication increases the risk of tumors in humans.
- Increased risk for: Low blood sugar and vision changes in people with type 2 diabetes, increased heart rate, pancreatitis, kidney failure, and medullary thyroid carcinoma, especially in people with a family history of this cancer.
- Depression or thoughts of suicide. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have sudden, new, or worsening changes in your mood, thoughts, feelings, or behaviors after taking semaglutide.
What should consumers know about compounded or counterfit semaglutide products?
When a drug is in short supply, compounded versions may be available if they meet certain FDA requirements. According to FDA, “Drug compounding is the process of combining, mixing, or altering ingredients to create a medication tailored to the needs of an individual patient.” However, FDA does not approve such drugs or verify their effectiveness or safety.
FDA also states, "Patients should be aware that some products sold as ‘semaglutide’ may not contain the same active ingredient as FDA-approved semaglutide products and may be the salt formulations. Products containing these salts, such as semaglutide sodium and semaglutide acetate, have not been shown to be safe and effective…Purchasing medicine online from unregulated, unlicensed sources can expose patients to potentially unsafe products that have not undergone appropriate evaluation or approval, or do not meet quality standards." For more information, please read the FDA article about medications containing semaglutide.
Posted 29 September 2023