New weight-loss drug costs $1,300 a month — or the pounds can pile on


Beth Rubin loved being skinny. And for about 14 years, after losing 40 pounds, she enjoyed a slender physique.

“My happiest day,” the recently retired Wall Street executive told the Post, “was when I donated my ‘big’ clothes.”

Then the pandemic hit. His calorie intake increased and the weight regained. After gaining 10 pounds, Rubin knew something had to be done — and traditional diets had stopped working.

“In December I told my weight loss doctor that I needed help,” Rubin, 59, said. “I knew what I had to do [to lose weight] but I was always hungry. My doctor told me that my body was looking for calories.

On the advice of her doctor, Dr. Katherine H. Saunders, Rubin turned to a new strategy – the diabetes drug Ozempic. It includes a compound, semaglutide, intended for obese people and people with type 2 diabetes, but it’s increasingly being used by people who need to lose just 5 or 10 pounds. It is found in both the weight-loss drug Wegovy and the injectable Ozempic; the former has been shown to help reduce body weight by 15% and the latter by around 10%.

Beth Rubin, seen here in a photo before losing weight with obesity drug Wegovy.

Semaglutide “is a hormone that is produced while we eat; it tells the brain that we are full,” Dr. Saunders, co-founder of Intellihealth, a company specializing in the drug management of obesity, told the Post. “It helps people feel less hungry, feel full faster, and stay full longer. But it does when we are actually less full than would be the norm.

And it can be expensive. Dr. Abe Malkin, founder of Concierge MD in Los Angeles, has seen people pay $1,300 a month for Wegovy. He understands the call.

“Some patients in Los Angeles want to look good and feel good, and that’s one way to maximize gains when you start a weight loss program,” he told the Post. On the other side, Dr. Malkin added: “It can be hard to shed those last few pounds. It’s effective for people at any weight, whether you need to lose five pounds or 50.”

Rubin has been taking Ozempic since December and said she lost 19 pounds, exceeding her expectations.
Rubin has been taking Ozempic since December and said she lost 19 pounds, exceeding her expectations.
Stephen Yang for the New York Post

Officially, Wegovy is recommended for patients who have a body mass index of 27 or higher, with at least one weight-related medical condition.

But there’s a catch: once you stop, the hunger pangs return. So for those who want to stay lean, that can mean a lifetime of $1,300 a month, which Dr. Saunders describes as “prohibitively expensive for most people.”

Luckily for Rubin, who has a family history of diabetes, his insurer covers Ozempic. Its effectiveness, via a self-injection “into my belly” every week, exceeded his wildest dreams.

Wegovy, which like Ozempic contains semaglutide, is recommended for patients who have a body mass index of 27 or higher, with at least one weight-related medical condition.
Wegovy, which like Ozempic contains semaglutide, is recommended for patients who have a body mass index of 27 or higher, with at least one weight-related medical condition.
PA

“I wanted to lose 10 pounds — and I ended up losing 19,” said Rubin, who started taking the drug last December. “I haven’t been this skinny since I was in my early twenties. People call me ‘skinny’ and I haven’t been called ‘skinny’ in a long time. That in itself is positive reinforcement.

But taking the drug can lead to complications. Rubin reports that, for the first five or six weeks, she was newly plagued with acid reflux and heartburn. Also the food didn’t taste as good. At first, when the effects are most pronounced, Rubin told the Post, “I had to force myself to eat. I wasn’t hungry at all. I had to eat slowly and watch my meals. If I ate too much, my doctor told me I would get sick.

An avid traveler, Rubin lost half a pound in Paris – still eating bread, but wanting less.
An avid traveler, Rubin lost half a pound in Paris – still eating bread, but wanting less.

“There were times when I ate a little too much and didn’t feel well.”

Testimony to the effectiveness of what some call “a miracle drug” is the fact that Rubin managed not to gain weight even under conditions where she normally would. Five weeks after starting Ozempic, Rubin and her husband traveled to Egypt. Rubin said she was still gaining weight while on vacation and told the nurse practitioner in Dr. Saunders’ office about it. “Not this time,” predicted the nurse.

She was right. Rubin’s weight has remained stable. Maybe, she guessed, it had to do with the fact that Egypt wasn’t exactly a foodie destination. More recently, however, she’s been to what ranks among the most food-hungry places in the world.

Medications like Ozempic and Wegovy take away the feeling of hunger and will make you feel sick if you eat too much.
Medications like Ozempic and Wegovy take away the feeling of hunger and will make you feel sick if you eat too much.
Shutterstock

“I was in Paris just two weeks ago,” Rubin said. “I ate bread every day and still didn’t gain weight.”

But she ate less bread than usual: “If there was food on my plate and I had enough, I would stop. In fact, I lost half a pound in Paris.

But there are people who want the non-obese to fire from Wegovy. Due to a supply chain issue and the popularity of the drug, it was reportedly in limited access for new users. Manufacturer Novo Nordisk (which makes both Wegovy and Ozempic) acknowledged this on its website: “There will be little to no supply of the 1mg dose. [which is the starter dose] starting as early as May and continuing through the second half of 2022, when we expect supply to stabilize.

Rubin lost 40 pounds several years ago and grew concerned when she gained 10 back.
Rubin lost 40 pounds several years ago and grew concerned when she gained 10 back.
Stephen Yang for the New York Post

This has raised the concern of some who are on Wegovy. “It should only be for people who need medication for health reasons,” Kelli Deavers Charpentier, who is five-foot-two and now weighs 170 pounds, told The Post. “My body is insulin resistant and I would gain weight immediately if I couldn’t gain it back. I was morbidly obese. After losing 12 pounds in seven weeks, she added, “Now I’m obese.”

Dr. Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington DC, described Wegovy as “great medicine,” but, he told the Post, “It’s not a miracle drug… And using it for thin people who want to lose a few pounds for a wedding would be inappropriate. Obesity is a medical condition. For people who are 100 pounds overweight, it is an appropriate medication. Overtreat with medication is not medically prudent.

Rubin and other patients qualify for their drugs not because they have obesity now, but because they have been there in the past and have the potential to get there in the near future. It is a form of treatment that Dr. Kahan generally agrees with.

Health professionals say that if you stop Ozempic, your hunger will return.  Rubin says she has no plans to quit anytime soon.
Health professionals say that if you stop Ozempic, your hunger will return. Rubin says she has no plans to quit anytime soon.
Stephen Yang for the New York Post

“We’re looking at someone’s body mass,” Dr. Saunders said. “If they were [a BMI of ] 40 years old and today 26 years old, we may want to prescribe it because there would be a high probability of regaining the weight we lost. It’s not just where they are now, but where they were before they lost weight. Our bodies have evolved not to starve. That’s why people lose and win, lose and win. Seventy-four percent of this country is overweight or obese. Our bodies sabotage our best efforts. Medicines can help.

Even if it means taking Ozempic for the rest of his life, the Battle of the Bulge is not a war Rubin will lose easily.

“I have no intention of quitting,” she said. “If I stop, I’ll still be hungry.”


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