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Rybelsus for Weight Loss: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Efficacy
Medically reviewed by
Obesity in America remains an epidemic that seems to have no end. While there is no shortage of gimmicks that promise to burn fat with no effort, the truth is that obesity-related conditions are responsible for the premature deaths of 2.8 million people each year. Among these tragic losses, medical costs due to these same conditions average around 173 billion dollars per year. These shocking statistics prompt healthcare providers, concerned family members, and overweight individuals to search for a fast and effective solution.
Rybelsus, a medication primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes, has made its way to the limelight for its potential to stimulate weight loss. Learn more about the uses, dosage, side effects, and efficacy of Rybelsus when it comes to weight loss:
Uses of Rybelsus
Rybelsus is the brand name of a medication called semaglutide. Semaglutides are also known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (or GLP-1) agonists and this medication must be prescribed by a doctor. Unlike many other medications, there is no generic version of this formulation and it is always distributed under the brand name Rybelsus. Typically, it is prescribed to adults who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
More than 37 million people in America have been diagnosed with diabetes and anywhere from 90-95 percent of these individuals have type 2 diabetes. Although the two are often confused, type 1 diabetes is genetic and appears in adolescence. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is linked to certain lifestyle choices. For example, poor diet and no exercise for an extended period of time can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. When a person has type 2 diabetes, their body struggles with insulin production. The individual may not produce enough insulin or may resist insulin altogether. Because of this, they need assistance to regulate their blood sugar levels. When these levels are not regulated, it can lead to dire consequences such as seizures, coma, or even death.
Rybelsus has a specific mechanism of action that encourages the pancreas to release more insulin. As the insulin is released, the sugars that are within the blood are encouraged to migrate to the cells instead of remaining within the blood. When this occurs, the result is lower blood sugar levels. This medication can allow those with type 2 diabetes to live a more normal life without having to constantly check or monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Rybelsus was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2019 and was the first GLP-1 to receive this seal of approval. Beyond this use, it is highly regarded for its ability to help those struggling with type 2 diabetes lose weight when paired with a healthy diet and regular exercise. It is not approved as a weight loss medication, although some doctors prescribe it for this off-label use in patients struggling with obesity.
The active ingredient, semaglutide, aids in combating obesity because it is capable of mimicking a natural hormone. This hormone is created in the digestive system as a response to the ingestion of food. In turn, it makes the individual feel fuller for a longer period of time. Rybelsus also targets certain receptors in the brain that are linked to regulated food consumption. This can help decrease cravings to prevent excessive calorie consumption.
Several medications that are prescribed to regulate blood sugar levels are taken by injections, but Rybelsus is the first oral medication to be FDA-approved for this purpose. It is prescribed in a tablet form and patients with type 2 diabetes may take 3mg, 7mg, or 14mg doses, depending on their doctors’ recommendations. Rybelsus must be taken as the patient wakes for the day with a single sip of water.
After the tablet is swallowed, the patient must avoid eating, drinking, or taking other medications for approximately 30 minutes afterward. If food, water, or other medications are taken too soon after Rybelsus is taken, it can drastically affect the medication's ability to be absorbed by the body. In turn, this can cause Rybelsus to be less effective at regulating the patient’s blood sugar levels throughout the day.
When it comes to Rybelsus for weight loss, the dosage will likely begin at the minimum dose of 3mg and increase as the patient becomes used to the medication. Typically, doctors recommend beginning with the 3mg dose and then switching to 7 mg after a period of 30 days. Once 7mg of Rybelsus has been well tolerated for 30 days, the patient can take the maximum dose of 14 mg if needed.
Side Effects of Rybelsus
It isn’t uncommon for prescription medications like Rybelsus to have the potential for side effects. When a doctor opts to prescribe a medication to a patient, it is because they have used their medical expertise and have determined that the benefits of the medication outweigh the risks. Despite this, it is difficult for a doctor to determine exactly how a patient will react to a medication. Some of the most common side effects of Rybelsus include:
Stomach and abdominal pains
In most cases, these side effects are mild and are most prominent when a patient first begins taking the medication or initially after having their dosage changed. They usually subside within a week or less and gradually disappear altogether as the body adjusts to the medication. For some, severe side effects may occur that require immediate medical attention. If any of the following side effects occur, seek professional help:
Shortness of breath
Loss of coordination
Pain in the eyes
Swelling of the face or tongue
Heart flutters or a fast heartbeat
Swelling in the throat or the presence of a lump in the throat or neck
Signs of pancreatitis which may include back and stomach pain, along with nausea or vomiting
Low blood sugar
In addition to these side effects, it is also important to note that Rybelsus lists a serious warning on its box indicating an increased risk of thyroid cancer. Those who have a personal or family history of certain cancers should avoid taking Rybelsus altogether due to this risk. Those who are taking the medication should perform regular checks for signs of thyroid cancer, such as lumps in the throat, and be aware of other signs such as hoarseness or sore throat.
Rybelsus is also not approved for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant in the near future or those who are currently breastfeeding. Rybelsus may be dangerous and has the potential to cause harm to a fetus or to a baby when the medication is transferred through the breast milk. Those who take the medication to manage their type 2 diabetes should discuss alternative treatments with their doctor and make them aware of their pregnancy or breastfeeding immediately.
Efficacy of Rybelsus for Weight Loss
Although Rybelsus is not a weight loss drug, there have been studies conducted on its efficacy for weight loss. One clinical study, known as Pioneer 8, showed that participants who took 14 mg of Rybelsus on a daily basis lost an average of 7.9 pounds after one year. By comparison, those who took a placebo actually gained weight during this same timeframe. Other studies indicate similar results with those taking 14 mg of Rybelsus losing around 8.1 pounds over the course of 26 weeks. Other studies report that while many patients did lose weight while taking Rybelsus, some actually gained weight while on the medication.
Ideally, Rybelsus should be paired with a healthy diet and exercise to achieve optimal results. While the weight loss experienced when taking Rybelsus can vary from one patient to the next, it is a helpful aid in encouraging these patients to make healthier choices to better control their health. With side effects like a decreased appetite, Rybelsus can give these individuals the jumpstart that they need to get on the right path in their weight loss journey.
Despite this, Rybelsus remains most effective as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. In studies conducted regarding its efficacy in this format, A1C levels were noticeably decreased within six months. After six months of treatment with Rybelsus, 8 out of 10 patients achieved A1C levels of less than 7%. It is important to note that although these results are impressive, Rybelsus is not recommended or prescribed to those who have type 1 diabetes instead of type 2. These patients will require a different course of treatment in order to maintain optimal blood sugar levels.
Overall, Rybelsus does appear to be effective at allowing patients to lose some weight. The amount of weight; however, is not significant even after taking the medication for a year or longer. Because of the potentially harmful side effects and severe warnings that come along with Rybelsus, including thyroid cancer, it is best reserved as a treatment for those who have type 2 diabetes and are struggling to regulate their blood sugar levels with other medications or techniques. When paired with diet and exercise, a small amount of weight loss can be beneficial to these individuals. For those who are otherwise healthy and do not have diabetes, there are likely safer and more effective options available on the market to aid with weight loss.
Nu Image Medical has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.