What Are the Risks & Side-Effects of Giving Kids & Teens Weight Loss Drugs Like Wegovy?

Wegovy is the latest prescription drug to garner national attention as the Food and Drug Administration recently approved it for the treatment of obesity in adolescents 12 years and older. 

Known medically as semaglutide, the injection was approved for weight loss management in adults in June of 2022, and its lower-dose-sister-drug, Ozempic, was initially approved in 2017 for medical use in patients with type 2 diabetes. But both drugs have recently gone mainstream, and that’s in large part because it’s been rumored that the injections are popular among celebrities looking to lose weight. In September, Variety reported that Hollywood’s A-listers “are quietly singing the drug’s praises”. Elon Musk tweeted that he was taking Wegovy when asked how he looked “fit, ripped and healthy,”. On TikTok, the hashtag #Wegovy has been viewed over 203 million times, and the drug has increased so much in popularity that the FDA says it’s currently in short supply. 

And while doctors who prescribe Wegovy are optimistic that the drug will help those it is intended for, there are concerns that the drug could be used to simply promote thinness and unattainable beauty standards to adolescents who have just become eligible. There’s also concerns that the latest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, advocating for more “aggressive” treatment can lead to more mental and physical struggles for young people trying to cultivate healthy relationships with their bodies and with food.

So, we asked the experts how Wegovy works, what the risks are and what other weight loss alternatives for children are out there. Here’s what they had to say. 

What is Wegovy and who is a candidate?

Wegovy is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist, which in simpler terms means it imitates a hormone in your body that tells your brain to regulate your food intake, which ultimately lowers your appetite and how much food you want to consume. 

Endocrinologist Arti Thangudu, MD and CEO and founder of Complete Medicine says that Weogvy also promotes satiety. “So it makes people feel full faster, and it does that by slowing how fast food moves through the GI tract. So in that way, it suppresses appetite, and it also works on brain receptors,” she said. “So a lot of times we eat because we’re bored, happy, sad, not necessarily because we’re hungry. And Wegovy decreases that food fixation.”

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