CHICAGO -- While Oprah Winfrey didn't reveal whether she's using Ozempic, Wegovy or a different medication, she's sparked a new conversation around weight loss drugs, who should use them and their effectiveness.
Winfrey, who turns 70 next month, said she spent years battling her weight and thinking it was all about willpower. Now she said she's no longer blaming herself, and is relieved to have a new tool in her arsenal to help her combat obesity.
Winfrey revealed she uses weight loss medication, telling People Magazine, "The fact that there's a medically approved prescription for managing weight and staying healthier, in my lifetime, feels like relief, like redemption, like a gift and not something to hide behind and once again be ridiculed for."
She said, "It was a public sport to make fun of me for 25 years. I have a predisposition that no amount of willpower is going to control."
"I approve these medications in patients who struggle with their weight and have weight related conditions," said Dr. Veronica Johnson, internal medicine physician and obesity specialist at Northwestern Medicine.
Johnson said diabetes and weight loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro are giving her patients a new lease on life. She said some of the effects of these medications are similar to that of someone who has undergone surgery.
"Weight is a risk factor for a lot of different medical factors. So, if we treat someone's weight, we can decrease their risk of having several different forms of different cancer, progressing to diabetes, having heart disease," she said.
But the recent popularity of these drugs have come with challenges. Johnson said some people are using the medications as a quick fix, making it harder for diabetes patients get treatment they need to survive.
JB Starks, who has type 2 diabetes, said Ozempic has been a game changer in managing his diabetes and weight, but he's now unable to get his prescription filled because of a nationwide shortage.
"I've gotten to the point where I'm simply annoyed that the manufacturer, that the industry has not found a way to establish priorities to get the medication to the people who need it most. Diabetics, people who are morbidly obese, and then the folks in the middle," he said.
Johnson said some people have gotten so desperate for the drugs, they're using knock-off brands.
"There are the med spas, there are the compounding pharmacies that are providing the non FDA approved product at a cheaper price," she said.
Johnson said the key is to talk to your doctor, establish a plan and work toward a healthy lifestyle to enhance your quality of life.
The maker of Ozempic and Wegovy said they are taking legal action against places that are exploiting their brand. They said their 2 milligram dose is in very high demand, but smaller doses are currently available in the U.S.