Written on July 20, 2023 by Lori Mulligan, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Table of contents
Before discussing the potential pitfalls of stopping Ozempic® suddenly, let’s first recap who Ozempic® is intended for, at what dosage, how effective it is, and its main side effects.
The CDC estimates 42% of Americans are living with obesity (defined as a body mass index, BMI, of 30 or higher). For them, Ozempic® and other anti-obesity medications are being hailed as a major triumph. And for good reason.
Ozempic® is FDA-approved to treat people with Type 2 diabetes. However, it has also been found to help reduce weight among individuals who are overweight or obese.
For people with a BMI lower than 30, the old standbys of diet and exercise are the best route to maintaining a healthy body weight. But for people with obesity, lifestyle changes won’t likely do the trick. But new medications, like Ozempic® can reverse dysfunctional pathways that cause obesity and lead to a host of chronic diseases, like heart disease, kidney disease, sleep apnea, and more.
When you take Ozempic®, or other GLP-1 agonists, your body makes more GLP-1. More GLP-1 reduces your appetite, so you eat less. But Ozempic® isn’t simply a tool that suppresses appetite. Ozempic® actually changes how your body responds to food.
Providers can (and do) prescribe Ozempic® “off-label” for people who are living with obesity. Using a medication off-label means it’s prescribed for a use other than its stated purpose. And it’s really common across the medical field. In the case of Ozempic®, it makes total sense to use it to treat obesity, considering its sister drug, Wegovy®, is approved for that use just at a greater dose.
The FDA says that after it approves a medication, it’s able to be used in other situations when medically appropriate. In other words, there’s nothing dangerous or “wrong” about medicines like Ozempic® being used off-label to treat obesity. That is, if you have obesity and your provider determines that it’s the best course of action for you.
According to Ozempic®’s website, a once-weekly dosing schedule is to be followed at different doses depending on how well your blood sugar level is being controlled.
Ozempic® is taken once a week, exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider, along with diet and exercise, to lower blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes.
The beginning dose is 0.25 mg once a week for the first 4 weeks. This will help give your body a chance to get used to the medicine.
At Week 5, your health care provider will increase the dose to 0.5 mg once a week.
If additional blood sugar control is needed, your provider may prescribe 1 mg per week. The maximum dose of Ozempic® is 2 mg once a week. Always follow your health care provider's instructions on how to dose Ozempic®.
Adults with type 2 diabetes taking Ozempic® lost up to 14 pounds. Ozempic® is not a weight-loss drug. However, significant weight loss was found in patients taking it for Type 2 diabetes. In 2 different studies looking at A1C, adults with type 2 diabetes lost on average:
from an average starting weight of 202 lb and 219 lb, respectively.
There are common gastrointestinal side effects with Ozempic® like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.
There are ways to potentially mitigate these side effects—like slowly increasing the dose of medication, staying well hydrated, avoiding high-fat foods, and appropriately spacing out meals—which is all information you would get if it’s been prescribed appropriately.
There have also been concerns raised about potential risks of pancreatitis and a rare thyroid cancer known as medullary thyroid carcinoma. For these reasons, these medications aren’t typically prescribed to those with a personal history of pancreatitis or a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma.
According to Dr. Cecila Loe Wang, a UCHealth expert in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism, people do not need to be tapered before stopping.
“You can always choose to stop the medications, but it’s important to know that you will have a very high risk of regaining lost weight and worsening diabetes control,” she said. “These medications are like others. Whatever you were treating is likely to recur.”
Since there’s no evidence yet that stopping abruptly causes harm, we can consider other research articles that analyze what normally happens when you stop Ozempic®. For example, an article in Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism gives some insight into what one might expect after withdrawing from the drug semaglutide, the generic name for Ozempic®.
What they found was one year after withdrawal of once‐weekly subcutaneous semaglutide 2.4 mg and lifestyle intervention, participants regained two‐thirds of their prior weight loss, with similar changes in cardiometabolic variables, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease.
Findings confirm the chronicity of obesity and suggest ongoing treatment is required to maintain improvements in weight and health.
Our comprehensive GLP-1 weight loss program pairs a weight loss drug, GLP-1, with regular clinician care, lab testing, and support for related conditions. (Age 18+) Specifically, clients receive:
Everlywell also offers the home-collection hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test which is an easy way to measure how well you have been maintaining your blood sugar levels for the past 90 days.