Does Semaglutide Stop Working?

Discontinuing Semaglutide

Drugs for weight loss like glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists have become increasingly popular.

Especially as Saxenda, Wegovy, and Zepbound have shown how helpful they can be in shedding some weight.

However, a recent study by BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) has disclosed something new. They say that patients mostly stop taking these medicines too early and experience less effective results.

The BCBS study examined data from nearly 170,000 people prescribed GLP-1 drugs between 2014 and 2023.

The findings were surprising: 58% of patients stopped using the drugs before they lost enough weight.

Even more alarming, almost 30% quit within the first month, before the recommended dose had a chance to work.

These results show that the main issue is people not sticking to their treatment plans.

Even though more and more people are interested in taking weight-loss drugs, most people do not use them the right way.


Why Do Patients Stop Semaglutide Early?

Some people might feel discouraged if they are unable to lose weight quickly because they expect to receive a magic bullet for weight loss.

Side effects like nausea and stomach upset can also be a valid reason. Plus, the high cost of these medications and possible insurance coverage limits might be factors in why people stop using them.

What are the consequences of early discontinuation?

Research has also said that GLP-1 RAs are best when they are consumed consistently.

If one stops taking these drugs early, he or she will miss out on the potential long-term benefits, including weight management, improved blood sugar control, and a reduced risk of CVD.


How can we improve patient adherence?

We need to understand why patients stop taking the meds so early. Physicians must explain to their patients that seeing results will take some time and warn them about all possible side effects.

They must look for ways to handle the side effects and find methods to make the drugs accessible and affordable.

The BCBS study has highlighted that managing weight can be complex. Weight loss drugs can help but they are not a quick fix. To lose and maintain weight loss, certain strategies must be adopted.

  • Patients:

They must be informed about the benefits and possible side effects of such medicines, along with methods to reduce those effects, and must cooperate with doctors to create a complete weight-loss plan.

  • Doctors:

Doctors need to assess a patient’s compliance before prescribing them weight-loss drugs. All aspects of the medicines must be explained in detail so patients are aware of what they are getting into.

  • Pharmaceutical companies:

Such organizations must conduct clinical trials to evaluate and improve the tolerability and affordability of these medicines.


How to adhere to weight-loss medicines

  • Instructions to keep in mind

Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding the amount of medication, the time at which you should take a dose, and any other guidance, such as taking it with or without food.

Some meds must be taken with food so that the acid in the stomach can help enhance the efficiency, while in other cases, taking it without food is a better option.

Likewise, the timing matters just as much. For instance, consuming an appetite suppressant will work best when taken in the morning to curb cravings throughout the day.

Taking medication with enough water ensures proper absorption.

  • Consistency is key:

While you plan your day, integrate taking the medicine or the injection into the routine. This could be at the start or end of your day.

Things like pill organizers or medication reminder apps can help, too. Or you can just set an alarm to avoid missing a dose.

It must be noted that no weight loss medicine has an immediate noticeable effect. You need to stick to the treatment course to experience long-term benefits.

You can keep track of your progress, which will motivate you to keep taking the drugs.


Managing Side Effects of Semaglutide and Other Weight Loss Medications:

  • Be proactive:

Stay alert to any negative side effects that your medicine might cause. These are written on a pamphlet that comes with your drug or a pharmacy sheet or through online resources.

Common adverse effects may include nausea, constipation, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, and dry mouth.

Discuss these side effects with your doctor at your first and subsequent visits. Find out how to manage or lessen them.

  • Open communication:

Immediately notify your doctor if you notice any new or worsening side effects, even if they appear minor.

The National Institutes of Health also advises people to report side effects to physicians [ref]. Your doctor will be able to help you quicker if you report them as early as you can.

They can change the dosage, prescribe some meds to treat the side effect or switch to a different weight-loss medicine.

A study from 2020 has also concluded that better communication between a doctor and their patient about side effects can lead to longer drug adherence [ref].


Maintaining progress

  • Monitor and adapt:

Keep regular appointments with your doctor. This helps them track your weight, overall progress, and any side effects you might have.

With this history, they can change your medication plan or provide advice as needed.

  • A healthy lifestyle:

You should know that weight-loss meds are just a tool to help you reach your goals. You should not solely rely on them for long-term success.

Develop a healthy routine where you eat properly and get appropriate nourishment, along with at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.

These habits will help you maintain the lost weight even after you stop taking the daily dose.


What do you think?

Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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