GLP-1 Agonists: Drug Facts and Medication Side Effects

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The past few years have seen a spike in prescriptions for Ozempic and Wegovy, two GLP-1 agonist injections that are used to treat type 2 diabetes. However, these medications aren’t necessarily being used by diabetics. They have become a popular choice for weight loss because they also work as appetite suppressants. 

One study found there were 1.9 billion claims from private insurers to cover GLP-1 medications in 2023 alone. In Kentucky, the state with the highest use of Ozempic and Wegovy, 21 patients were prescribed this medication for every 1,000 residents. 

While these injections can be effective, they also come with substantial risks. learn more about how GLP-1 agonists work and the potential side effects and complications that come with them. 

What Are GLP-1 Agonists? 

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists are injectable medications that help manage your blood sugar levels. they tell your body to increase the production of insulin which is important in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Depending on the medication, patients either inject the GLP-1 agonists daily or weekly. These are usually injected into fatty tissue around your abdomen. 

This type 2 diabetes treatment option was only approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005. Researchers are still learning about GLP-1 agonists and their impact on the patients who take them. 

How Do GLP-1 Agonists Work?

GLP-1 agonists are effective because they help manage type 2 diabetes in multiple ways. These medications affect the hormone balance of your body while also changing how your brain sends hunger cues. Here’s what happens when you take a GLP-1 agonist medication like Ozempic or Wegovy:

  • Your pancreas releases more insulin: This allows you to better process food and turn it into energy. This consumption of energy also lowers your blood sugar. 
  • Your stomach slows down: These medications prevent food from passing quickly through your stomach. Not only is this valuable for managing type 2 diabetes, but it can also make you feel fuller for longer. This can potentially cause weight loss. 
  • The brain doesn’t process hunger messages: Finally, GLP-1 agonists prevent your brain from processing hunger. Without hunger pangs, patients are less likely to snack or overeat. This further increases the chances of weight loss. 


These three components are all valuable for managing your insulin levels, blood sugar, and eating habits. 

What Are the Side Effects of GLP-1 Agonists?

Many of these side effects associated with GLP-1 agonists are related to gastrointestinal distress. A few common side effects include:

  • Loss of appetite;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Constipation;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Dizziness.


While some people are going to be more sensitive to this medication and experience side effects regardless, medical experts say some of these symptoms are avoidable. Patients can reduce their feelings of nausea and vomiting by eating slowly and stopping when they are full. They recommend having smaller portions and setting aside a brief digestion period before exercising. 

If you experience serious side effects from taking these medications, talk to your doctor. they may recommend stopping the GLP-1 agonists or making lifestyle changes so your body receives them better. 

What Are the Benefits of GLP-1 Agonist Drugs?

While GLP-1 agonists are often celebrated for the weight loss they cause, these injections can also cause other benefits to your body. A few positive symptoms you might notice include:

  • Lower blood pressure;
  • Reduced risk of heart attack;
  • Fewer symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes.


If you do start to lose weight on GLP-1 agonists, you might also notice benefits that come with shedding extra pounds. Even losing 5-10% of your body weight can lead to benefits like improved cardio stamina, increased sex drive and performance, reduced sleep apnea symptoms, and less joint pain. 

What Are GLP-1 Agonists Used For?

GLP-1 agonists are used to treat two specific conditions: type 2 diabetes and obesity. Wegovy is the first medication approved to support heart disease through weight loss; however, doctors are increasingly prescribing medications like Ozempic to patients who don’t have diabetes to stimulate weight loss. Learn more about these two conditions and how GLP-1 agonists treat them. 

Type 2 Diabetes

GLP-1 agonists are designed to help patients lower their A1C (your blood glucose level). The American Diabetes Association recommends adults with type 2 diabetes should have an A1C below 7%. Doctors may recommend these injections for patients with A1C levels that are reaching high levels.

GLP-1 agonists are also recommended for people who currently do not have their type 2 diabetes under control and for whom metformin doesn’t work

These injections are not meant to serve as standalone wonder drugs. Patients are recommended to make healthy lifestyle changes as part of an overall treatment plan. This is because managing type 2 diabetes gets easier for patients who carefully monitor their diet and incorporate healthy exercise into their lives. 

Obesity  

Doctors may recommend GLP-1 agonists for obese patients who have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. Doctors might also recommend these injections for patients with a BMI greater than 27 if they have other health complications that could negatively affect them in the future. 

Similar to diabetes treatment, these medications aren’t the only solution to lowering obesity rates. Doctors recommend maintaining a healthy diet and eating reasonable portions to assist with weight loss while on these drugs. They also recommend incorporating exercise, even low-impact activities like swimming, to boost cardio health, build muscle, and burn calories. Patients can build healthy habits that last for decades while getting medical assistance from these injections. 

What Are Some Popular GLP-1 Agonist Drugs?

There are multiple GLP-1 agonist drugs approved for the American market. Here are a few brands you might have heard of: 

  • Ozempic: This is one of the most popular GLP-1 agonist drugs and is made by Novo Nordisk. The pharmaceutical company recently announced a potential successor medication to help with weight loss
  • Wegovy: This injection is also produced by Novo Nordisk and is approved for weight loss. 
  • Mounjaro: Diabetes medication is made by Eli Lilly. Demand for GLP-1 agonists has led to a shortage of this injectable drug
  • Zepbound: This medication is the same drug as Eli Lilly’s diabetes medication Mounjaro, but rebranded for weight loss.
  • Rybelsus: A prescription tablet intended to improve glycemic control in adults.


As demand for these injectables increases, more pharmaceutical companies will likely try and produce GLP-1 agonist drugs. While Ozempic is one of the best-known of these medications, many patients are also familiar with Wegovy, Mounjaro, Rybelsus and Zepbound.  

What Complications Are Possible With GLP-1 Agonists

While gastrointestinal side effects are not uncommon with GLP-1 agonists, some patients can experience severe reactions and complications because of this medication. Patients may experience pancreatitis, which is an inflamed pancreas and can make their abdomen feel sensitive to the touch, or develop a bowel obstruction because food isn’t moving effectively through the digestive system. 

In some cases, patients develop stomach paralysis. This occurs when food stops moving through the stomach and into the rest of the digestive system. While GLP-1 agonists are designed to slow the stomach down, there still needs to be movement and digestion to keep the patient healthy. 

These complications have led to product liability lawsuits against the makers of these weight loss drugs. Patients claim they were not adequately warned about the potential side effects and medical issues that could develop while taking Ozempic, Wegovy, and other GLP-1 agonists. The lawsuits accused drug manufacturers of being negligent and marketing and selling these drugs to consumers. 

Can You Sue for Health Issues Caused By GLP-1 Agonists? 

Many of the lawsuits related to GLP-1 agonist drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy are still in the development phase. There are multiple mass tort lawsuits against the manufacturers of these drugs with several plaintiffs claiming they were harmed by the injectables. If you took GLP-1 agonist drugs and experienced severe complications, you might be able to file a claim and join one of these suits. You can work with a team of experienced lawyers who specialize in product liability claims. 

While GLP-1 agonists have the potential to change how patients treat type 2 diabetes and obesity, these are still new medications that we don’t know much about. Keep an eye on current Ozempic lawsuits and the potential complications that come with this medication before you agree to take it.

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