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Don’t use diabetic drug for weight loss, warns French health agency

The drug has hit headlines after videos on social media platform TikTok hailed it as helping weight loss

Ozempic should only be prescribed to diabetes who meet the prescription criteria, said the ANSM, in a new alert over the drug’s popularity for weight loss Pic: myskin / Shutterstock

France’s medicines safety agency has issued a warning over a diabetes drug that is being promoted for helping weight loss on social media platform TikTok.

The Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé (ANSM) says Ozempic should only be used by diabetics. 

The agency said it was worried about the popularity of the drug on TikTok and had put “increased surveillance” in place regarding its prescription. 

It said it feared that influencers who tout the drug as a weight loss aid could deprive diabetics of supplies of the drug. 

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a drug used to help people with type 2 diabetes, which cannot be controlled in any other way. It is only available on prescription. 

It has hit international headlines in recent months after it soared in popularity online, especially on video platform TikTok. The hashtag #Ozempic has spiked in recent weeks, hitting more than 500 million views on TikTok on February 24 alone, AFP reported.

The drug’s effect on the body’s insulin response can lead to weight loss (mainly due to a loss of appetite) in some non-diabetic people. 

It is administered by injection in the stomach once a week. 

Read also: Doctor’s slimming belt wins French contest after judge loses weight

How many people in France use it? 

Around 215,000 people in France have benefitted from its prescription between October 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022,  ANSM said.

Among these, 2,185 people who received Ozempic were non-diabetics.

Long-term use of the drug for weight loss alone can lead to dangerous side effects, doctors say.

Dr Isabelle Yoldjian, at the ANSM, told FranceInfo: “It can cause gallbladder and pancreas problems, as well as thyroid cancer.”

‘Question any suspicious prescriptions’

In its alert, the ANSM issued a reminder to doctors to only prescribe Ozempic to diabetics, and asked pharmacists to report any suspicious prescriptions.

This includes any that come from an online platform or are issued via remote consultation. 

Any suspicious prescriptions should be questioned, and in case of doubt, not filled without extra confirmation from a doctor, the agency said.

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