December 2, 2023

Popular new weight loss drugs Ozempic and Wegovy have been helping people to shed pounds, but some users have also reported shedding their hair as well as an alarming side effect.

The pricey injectable drugs have become a sensation among the Hollywood elite, but social media groups for people taking the medication include posts about hair loss, according to NBC News.

Semaglutide — better known by brand names Ozempic and Wegovy — were originally made for people suffering from Type 2 diabetes, but the drugs have become increasingly prescribed for weight loss. Tirzepatide, sold under the brand name Mounjaro for diabetics, has also jumped on the scene.

Currently, only Wegovy is FDA-approved for weight loss while Ozempic and Mounjaro are prescribed off-label by doctors.

The drugs have emerged as a popular alternative to gastric bypass surgery, which often comes with many risks and complications.

While reports of hair loss as a side effect of the drugs are unnerving, Dr. Vijaya Surampudi, assistant director of the UCLA weight management program in Los Angeles, told NBC that it is not common.

Ozempic bottle
Drugs previously used to treat Type 2 Diabetes are now being prescribed for weight loss.
Getty Images

Close up photo of wooden hair brush and long bunch of lost hairs.
Some people on the weight loss medications have reported hair loss.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Hair loss is unlikely related to the drugs,” said Surampudi, who has counseled patients who have experienced hair loss while on the medications, “but more likely related to weight loss that is a result of these drugs.” 

Ozempic does not list hair loss as a side effect, however 3% of patients reported hair loss during Wegovy’s clinical trials, according to NBC. While they are the same drug, Wegovy is a higher dose.

In a clinical trial for tirzepatide, 6% of patients taking a higher dose reported alopecia, while 1% of those given a placebo reported hair loss.

A selection of injector pens for the Wegovy weight loss drug
Wegovy is a brand name for the drug semaglutide.

Weight scale and tape measurer.
It’s estimated that more than half of the world will be overweight or obese by 2035, according to the World Obesity Federation.
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Tirzepatide drugmaker Eli Lilly told NBC in a statement that the hair loss observed in the trials was generally temporary, noting that “hair loss is a side effect that has been associated with significant weight loss in many previous clinical trials for obesity treatment.”

Surampudi said that hair loss is a common side effect of major weight loss, as it can be spurred by stress. 

The weight loss drugs suppress appetite, “shocking the system,” Surampudi said.

Those taking the medication can lose up to 20% of their body weight in six to 12 months before weight loss plateaus, NBC reported.


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