Albert Einstein wrote, “Everything is a miracle.” Is it possible that a new class of drugs is finally providing a miracle in the fight against diabetes? Ozempic and Trulicity, produced by Novo Nordisk and Ely Lilly, are examples of the brand-name prescription drugs gaining attention for fighting type 2 diabetes and showing success. Type 2 diabetes is among the leading killers globally. But information about these drugs is running wild. The hoped-for miracle needs a measure of grounding.
Consider Ozempic, a prescription drug, injected weekly by pen. It’s approved in Canada and the U.S. to treat type 2 diabetes, a lifestyle disease linked with obesity and a major risk factor for heart attack, blindness, kidney failure, and gangrene of the legs with possible amputation.
But the active ingredients in this class of drugs, marketed under a variety of names, are also getting attention for effectiveness in reducing obesity. The respected journal, Lancet, predicts a revolution in the treatment of obesity.
How do these drugs work? Ozempic reduces blood sugar level while providing a feeling of fullness and satisfaction after eating, delaying emptying of the stomach, and curbing the appetite for further food. Managing food intake is essential in the fight against type 2 diabetes.
But weight loss is proving a beneficial side effect of Ozempic. People can expect to lose about 20 percent of their weight over a 72-week period. When Ozempic is stopped, however, weight tends to return. So, to the current trend is for people to maintain a regular routine of use.
What about complications? Ozempic users complain of the usual ones such as, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain. In rats, tests show an increase in thyroid and pancreatic cancers. In humans, research to date suggests extremely low risk.
People may ask, why take the chance of developing thyroid or pancreatic cancer? But wait a minute. These are relatively rare forms of cancer driven by other risk factors.
Type 2 diabetes and obesity are far more significant hazards, triggering fatalities for millions. Weight reduction and management of type 2 diabetes are the smart investments. The better question is, could these drugs help millions who die annually from cardiovascular disease and heart failure? We could add renal disease, liver disease, and pneumonia, as well as additional but harder to count problems such as the surgical complications associated with diabetes and obesity.
Type 2 diabetes should be labelled “the great pandemic”. Why? Because the COVID-19 pandemic lasted just three devastating years. Many people died due to it. But nothing has been able to slow the progress of the globally mounting lifestyle disease of type 2 diabetes. We live at a time when there has never been greater medical communication. Yet there has been failure in convincing people that the key to good health and longevity is a sound lifestyle, started early in life and maintained.
There is an extraordinary opportunity at hand with drugs like Ozempic to address the awful consequences of this failure. But as was evident with COVID, social media has the upper hand over medical experts in the public discourse, especially among the young, and the information is not always to be trusted. But where do we expect people to turn when they are having such difficulties accessing a family doctor?
Beyond misinformation, the social media buzz has caused two other concerns: over-prescribing and drug shortages.
There is enormous power and wealth in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies producing these products. The ultimate question is, can they produce the miracle of motivating people to lead healthier lives?