“Taking Ozempic or Wegovy for ‘vanity’ weight loss without a valid medical reason puts you at risk,” nutritionist and weight loss specialist Milena Kaler tells GLAMOUR, stressing the importance of not taking these medications if you are a healthy weight – doing so “could contribute to the maintenance of unhealthy beauty standards, which can lead to issues with body image, and have a negative impact on your attitude towards losing weight. ”
There is also evidence of these drugs being sold away from the doctor’s surgery and professional consultations. Reports say that semaglutide is available to purchase in the UK for cheap over Instagram, while US TV presenter and author Meghan McCain has spoken about being offered a “black market freebie” of Ozempic.
A recent i Newspaper report found that weight loss jabs including Ozempic, Wegovy and Saxenda are also listed for sale on the black market via Facebook, with some posters even shockingly offering used medicines to buyers.
“When it comes to getting cheap, or counterfeit versions of a drug, one thing you can’t guarantee is consistency,” Michael Sam-Yorke, a clinician who prescribes Ozempic, tells GLAMOUR. “There have been horror stories of people being injected with something else that has become detrimental to someone’s health as a result. ”]
Charlotte*, 35, has recently obtained Ozempic from an online pharmacy in the UK to help hit her weight loss goals. She has a BMI of 26, which just about puts her in the “overweight” category that may qualify her for treatment, but her prescription was possible without direct communication with a healthcare professional or disclosure of her BMI.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone or had communications with a person via email or video,” she tells GLAMOUR, explaining that she only had to fill out a questionnaire pertaining to details such as age, gender and ethnicity.
Michael stresses the vital importance of using these drugs with the guidance of a healthcare professional, due to the risks to your health that are posed if you don’t stick to the right dosing schedule.
The dangers aren’t limited to those who are taking these medications unsupervised. Pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk – which produces both Ozempic and Wegovy – have reported shortages of Ozempic in 2022, a situation that it admitted had been worsened by the drug being marketed as a weight loss treatment.
So this trend is not only impacting body image expectations, but also the people who need access to drugs like Ozempic to treat life-threatening conditions like diabetes.
Eating disorder charity Beat have also stated that misuse of these medications can “further entrench eating disorder thoughts and behaviours”.
“Seeing celebrities using drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy to lose weight can make them seem glamorous and risk-free. However, these medications can have serious health consequences, particularly if you have an eating disorder or are vulnerable to one,” Tom Quinn, Beat’s director of external affairs, says.
“It is vital that people are aware of the dangers of abusing medication in order to lose weight and there should be more education on their effects. We’d urge anyone looking to use medication to lose weight to contact their GP or care team first. ”
While both Ozempic and Wegovy are valuable medications for legitimate health concerns, their use – or misuse – for weight loss while discounting medical guidelines and professional help reflects a rather dangerous societal attitude towards body image.
“Our society still values thinness extremely highly and we’re willing to go to extreme measures to achieve it,” body confidence advocate Alex Light tells GLAMOUR.
“I hope that one day we can just trust ourselves to eat and allow our bodies to settle at a size they’re supposed to be. But currently, the thin ideal prevails, and the instant popularity of this drug is a testament to that. ”