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  • Josh Lin

Weight Loss Pills: Fad or Fact?

From coffee enemas to tapeworm diet pills, Hollywood is truly no stranger to novel health fads. On November 8th, the FDA’s approval of Zepbound—a weight loss pill targeted towards people with obesity—reignited fiery discussion about the medication’s applications, along with the culture surrounding it.

On paper, such pills are only prescribed for those with—or at risk of—Type 2 diabetes. Ozempic, the previously reigning version of this drug, uses a compound named semaglutide to suppress its users’ appetites, allowing them to feel less hungry and stay full for longer periods. With clinical studies showing an average 10% reduction in body fat, it’s clearly effective for its intended purpose. For some, this drug is worth any possible negative effects. For others, not so much.

Disregarding all illicit uses of this drug, Ozempic is known to have an endless list of side effects, including acid reflux, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, hair loss, and facial sagging—just to name a few. Users of weight-loss pills also reported developing a dependency on this medication, with an almost immediate gain in weight upon quitting it—a problematic situation when these pills can cost up to $1,300 per month.

Despite such alarming side effects, Ozempic has been popularized, or even normalized, within American culture. To some, it is even known as the “hottest drug in Hollywood.” Common household names—such as Elon Musk—have admitted to using it, and countless more have been accused of doing so. Ozempic was intended as a counter against diabetes, yet the majority of its users consist of otherwise healthy people hoping for a fast, easy way to lose weight. Ultimately, the supply cannot match demand, leaving diabetic people with empty hands for months, all while these companies continuously hike up the prices as the drug becomes more mainstream.

So where does the recent FDA decision come into play? Not only did Eli Lilly—the company behind the new pill—make Zepbound more aggressive, with a promised loss of 15-22.5% of body weight, but they also targeted it towards people at risk of diabetes, meaning high body fat, obesity, and other factors. In short, it’s a stronger drug with a lower barrier of entry.

America is moving in a dangerous direction with the increasing deregulation of these medications—the casual nature of these pills’ prescriptions encourages a harmful stigma behind body weight. With the internalized unrealistic body standards so present within our culture of comparison, people will be increasingly drawn to this easy way out. Risking facial sag, gastrointestinal problems, improper nutrition, and even death, users of these weight loss pills perpetuate a cycle of destructive self-image and drug abuse as they continuously chase unrealistic standards with no end goal in sight.

After Thanksgiving, Zepbound will be freely prescribed by doctors. Only time will tell about the far-reaching consequences of the FDA’s decision.

Reviewed by: Reena Kagan

Graphic by: William Sun



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