How Do GLP-1 Drugs Like Ozempic Work?

Published on 
February 23, 2024
February 22, 2024
Virta Health
Virta Health
Virta Health

Otherwise known as Glucagon-like Peptide 1 receptor agonists, Ozempic, Wegovy and other GLP-1s have created a lot of buzz in the media lately after being approved for weight loss.

For good reason! This class of diabetes medications can help you lose weight and lower blood sugar. Even so, they have their downsides, and depending upon your goals, you may be better off pursuing a natural alternative like Virta instead of Ozempic, Wegovy and other GLP-1s.

Here’s what you need to know about GLP-1 Drugs: how GLP-1s work, the benefits of GLP-1s, and the potential downsides of Ozempic and other GLP-1 drugs.

GLP-1 Benefits

GLP-1s work by slowing stomach emptying, which results in greater feelings of fullness and decreased appetite. They also stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas to regulate blood sugar in response to meals. 

People taking GLP-1s lose, on average, 13% of their body weight after approximately one year of treatment. For people with diabetes, GLP-1s lower HbA1c by an average of 0.5 - 1.5%. Other benefits include decreased risk of heart disease, including heart failure and stroke, as well as improvements in kidney disease. People taking these drugs have seen their blood pressure and cholesterol levels improve. It’s not yet clear, however, if these additional benefits are due to the drug itself or as a result of the weight loss.

Common GLP-1 Medications

There are a number of brand names for GLP-1 class medications, such as:

If you're wondering which GLP-1 is the right choice for you, consult your doctor.

The potential downsides of GLP-1s

The long term impact of GLP-1 use is unknown, but what we do know is that there are some significant downsides associated with these medications. There is also a long list of associated GLP-1 side effects.

GLP-1s are no silver bullet.

GLP-1s are no silver bullet. Lifetime adherence to GLP-1s is required in order to maintain weight loss. It may seem reasonable to take a shot once a week for a lifetime, but studies show us the opposite. In fact, 68% of patients who started Wegovy, a GLP-1 medication approved for weight loss, stopped taking it within one year due to side effects. And patients who stop taking a GLP-1 will regain 65% of weight lost in less than a year.

Another downside is that these medications come with a hefty price tag. The list price ranges from $900 - $1350 per person per month, and these prices are not expected to go down. The surge in sales, popularity, and prevalence of these drugs is poised to create staggering costs for employers and health plans, forcing these entities to deploy other strategies to manage the cost of these drugs. The likelihood of patients losing access to them due to cost will increase. 

Is there a natural alternative to Ozempic and other GLP-1s?

There is! Virta Health offers comparable weight loss to GLP–1s. If you don’t want to risk the above side effects, or are feeling uneasy about injecting yourself with a GLP–1, Virta can help.

By making healthy lifestyle changes with supportive resources like one-on-one coaching and medical supervision, you can lose weight and reverse your diabetes without relying on Ozempic or other GLP–1s. 

See if you’re eligible for Virta Health here.

Are you living with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or unwanted weight?

Check to see if your health plan covers Virta
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Frequently Asked Questions

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