You have probably seen commercials for Ozempic. They’re intentionally vague in that all we see are people doing things and looking happy. If you’re unfamiliar with Ozempic, the commercials don’t help.

There’s a reason for this. Ozempic is a drug with multiple uses. It had an original use and now has a far more popular secondary use. The problem is that there are dangers in how Ozempic is being prescribed and used for that secondary use.

Ozempic (semaglutide) is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. It belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists, which work by mimicking the activity of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that is naturally produced in the body. GLP-1 helps to regulate blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin secretion and reducing the release of glucagon, a hormone that increases blood sugar.

In addition to its use in diabetes, Ozempic has been approved by the FDA as a treatment for obesity — that new secondary use.

In clinical trials, patients who took Ozempic lost significantly more weight than those who received a placebo. It is thought that Ozempic works as a weight reduction drug by suppressing appetite, reducing food intake and slowing down the emptying of the stomach, which leads to a feeling of fullness.

While Ozempic has been approved by the FDA as a treatment for obesity, there are potential risks and side effects associated with its use.

Potential side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. Patients are counseled that it’s crucial to talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of Ozempic before starting treatment.

One potential danger of using Ozempic for weight reduction is the risk of low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), especially in individuals who do not have diabetes. This can occur if the medication is combined with other medications that also lower blood sugar levels or if it is misused or in too high a dose. Symptoms of low blood sugar include sweating, shaking, confusion, dizziness and fainting.

Another potential danger of using Ozempic for weight reduction is the risk of pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas. This rare but serious condition can lead to hospitalization and even death. Symptoms of pancreatitis include severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fever.

Yet things can get much worse.

Another drug, Wegovy, the same type of GLO-1 drug that can suppress appetite, is approved by the FDA for weight-loss use.

A recent Fortune piece noted that a 2022 study found that after people stopped taking Wegovy, they regained two-thirds of the weight they’d lost on the drug. This highlights one of the most significant problems with how Ozempic is being used as a weight-loss drug: “It is being seen as a miracle drug to be used for weight-loss, then stopped once the user’s goal is achieved. But Ozempic’s reality is that GLP-1 medications are long-term treatments for obesity.”

Because Ozempic is a prescription medication, it should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Before starting treatment with Ozempic, individuals should discuss their medical history and potential risks with their doctor. Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels and other health parameters may be necessary while using this medication.

Patients should also discuss an actual strategy for how they’re going to use Ozempic, and this is where we often see a disconnect between advertising, the patient and the doctor.

If there is a lesson to be learned, it’s that people shouldn’t be making critically important long-term health decisions based on an ad, and they should be doing so based on the best medical practice.