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Study finds increased risk of abdominal paralysis with weight loss drugs

A new study reveals an alarming correlation, weight loss drugs linked to a heightened risk of abdominal paralysis. Learn more about the concerning findings impacting weight loss treatments.

Written By: Muskan Gupta @guptamuskan_ New Delhi Published on: May 27, 2024 18:28 IST
Weight loss drugs
Image Source : SOCIAL Weight loss drugs up abdominal paralysis risk

A recent study out of the United States has shed light on the potential risks associated with medications like Wegovy and Ozempic, hailed for their effectiveness in rapid weight reduction. While these drugs have garnered attention for their positive impacts on weight loss, the study suggests they may also carry the risk of uncommon yet serious side effects, including abdominal paralysis.

Abdominal paralysis, characterised by delayed stomach emptying, can lead to unintended weight loss, malnutrition, and other complications that may necessitate medical or even surgical intervention. The study, presented at Digestive Disease Week 2024 in Washington, analysed the records of over three lakh individuals with diabetes and obesity, of which 1.65 lakh were prescribed GLP-1 agonists, such as Wegovy and Ozempic.

GLP-1 agonists, also known as GLP-1RAs, are medications primarily used to treat Type 2 diabetes and obesity. They work by slowing stomach emptying and stimulating insulin production, among other effects. However, the study found that individuals taking these drugs were 30% more likely to develop abdominal paralysis compared to those who did not.

Dr. Prateek Sharma, professor of medicine at the University of Kansas and lead researcher of the study, emphasised the importance of raising awareness about these potential side effects. While acknowledging the established positive effects of GLP-1 drugs, Dr. Sharma stressed the need for caution due to the ongoing discovery of their long-term implications.

Despite not being legally available in India, reports indicate that drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic are being obtained through unofficial channels. Additionally, the recent introduction of Rybelsus, containing semaglutide, the main ingredient of Ozempic, has further fuelled interest in these medications for weight loss purposes.

Originally approved for diabetes management, Wegovy and Ozempic gained attention for their significant weight loss benefits, prompting limited approval for use in people with obesity by the US FDA. Their popularity surged globally, with even notable figures like Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey endorsing their use.

Dr. Anoop Misra, chairman of Fortis C-Doc, highlighted the potential future availability of these drugs and stressed the importance of understanding their side effects. "Given the popularity of these drugs, it is likely that we may have easy availability of the drug shortly and that too at lesser costs which is good as these drugs have proven to be effective in managing blood sugar, reducing weight, and even in managing chronic kidney disease. But the medical community as well as the public needs to be aware of its side effects," he said.

Dr. Randhir Sud, chairman of the Department of Digestive and hepatobiliary sciences at Medanta Hospital, explained that drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic work by reducing appetite through slowing stomach movement. While noting the early stage of their usage in India, Dr. Sud highlighted the need for monitoring potential side effects.

The study, which analysed healthcare records of over 120 million patients, found that GLP-1 users experienced gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, GERD, and stomach paralysis. While these drugs increased gastrointestinal side effects, they did not lead to more severe health crises requiring emergency care or hospitalisation.

In conclusion, while medications like Wegovy and Ozempic offer promising results in weight reduction, it's crucial to acknowledge and monitor potential side effects, particularly abdominal paralysis. Continued research and vigilance in medical monitoring are essential to ensure the safe and effective use of these drugs in managing obesity and related conditions.

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