Ozempic and Rybelsus are brand names for semaglutide, which is U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved to treat type 2 diabetes. The FDA has approved Wegovy, which is also semaglutide, for chronic weight management, but not for diabetes.
Semaglutide is used to treat Type 2 diabetes along with diet and exercise. It is not used to treat type 1 diabetes. If you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas cannot make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, your pancreas can make and release insulin, but your body cells cannot use it as effectively. Semaglutide helps the pancreas release more insulin when your blood glucose is high.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body regulates your blood sugar. When you eat a carbohydrate-rich meal, your blood sugar (glucose) rises. A healthy pancreas responds by producing more insulin. Insulin opens transporters in cell membranes and shuttles glucose from your bloodstream into your cells. Insulin is also released in response to consuming fats and proteins. Insulin moves excess glucose into your liver and muscle cells, where it can be stored until you need it for energy.
When your blood glucose rises after a meal and your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to reduce your blood sugar into the normal range, it is called diabetes. Diabetes can also develop if your pancreas produces enough insulin, but your body cells are resistant to its effects. When your blood glucose levels continue to rise, despite increased insulin levels, you may develop type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in children. About 5% of people with diabetes have type 1. Type 2 diabetes is much more common.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is not caused by dietary choices or a lack of exercise, unlike type 2 diabetes. Since the pancreas cannot produce any insulin, people with type 1 diabetes must rely on insulin injections or an insulin pump for the rest of their lives.
A healthy pancreas produces insulin (which lowers blood glucose) or glucagon (which raises blood glucose) to keep blood glucose within a very narrow range. People with type 1 diabetes must test their blood sugar throughout the day in order to adjust their insulin accordingly. Blood glucose levels can also be affected by diet, stress, and exercise.
High blood sugar can damage blood vessels, causing many of the complications associated with type 1 diabetes, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Researchers are currently investigating whether semaglutide can be used to help people with type 1 diabetes reduce their blood sugar fluctuations.
Type 2 diabetes affects approximately 95% of people with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is more common in people over the age of 45, but it can affect anyone at any age.
Your pancreas produces insulin, but your body cells do not use it effectively if you have type 2 diabetes. This is known as insulin resistance. In response to insulin resistance, your pancreas produces more insulin. However, your pancreas will eventually be unable to keep up, and your blood sugar will rise. When this happens, you may develop prediabetes or even type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when your:
Type 2 diabetes is treated with medication that helps your body move glucose more effectively into your cells or increases your body’s sensitivity to insulin. Making changes to your lifestyle, like losing weight, getting more exercise, and reducing stress, can help stop you from progressing from normal glucose utilization to prediabetes to diabetes.
Semaglutide, brand name Ozempic, is often prescribed along with diet and exercise to control your blood sugar when you have type 2 diabetes. It was FDA-approved in 2017 and is administered at a lower dose than Wegovy.
Semaglutide is in the drug class called incretin mimetics. These drugs act like incretin hormones. The small intestine releases incretin hormones after you consume a meal. They stimulate the release of insulin and lower blood sugar.
Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is an incretin hormone secreted by the L and K cells in the small intestine. Its levels rise dramatically after consuming a meal, especially a high-sugar meal. It binds with GLP-1 receptors on cells in the pancreas, stimulating insulin release. GLP-1 also:
Decreased hunger and slower stomach emptying make it easier to lose weight, which also improves type 2 diabetes.
The PIONEER 6 clinical trials compared the effectiveness of semaglutide with placebo, sitagliptin, and liraglutide. Semaglutide was superior in both weight loss and HgA1C reduction. Semaglutide is unique because it is an oral or subcutaneous injectable medication that is taken once weekly. In clinical trials, it not only lowered blood glucose levels but also helped trial participants lose weight.
Since semaglutide causes weight loss and losing excess pounds can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, Novo Nordisk relabeled and resold semaglutide at a higher dose for weight management. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Draft Guidance requires that medications for weight management must demonstrate a weight loss of over 5% or greater than a placebo. In clinical trials, participants taking Wegovy lost an average of 15% of their starting body weight.
Wegovy is used for chronic weight management in people with a body mass index (BMI):
Semaglutide shouldn’t be taken with any other GLP-1 receptor agonist or medicines that also contain semaglutide.
Semaglutide is not currently used or recommended for use in treating type 1 diabetes. Ozempic and Rybelsus are brand names for semaglutide, which is an FDA-approved treatment for type 2 diabetes. Wegovy is FDA-approved for chronic weight management. Losing excess weight is important in both managing and treating type 2 diabetes. It can help people with insulin resistance maintain normal glucose levels and avoid a progression to prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes because you are carrying excess weight, learn how semaglutide may help you get on the road to better health.
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While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.
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