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Health & Medicine

As Demand for Semaglutide Rises, So Too Do Poison Control Calls

— January 1, 2023

With the popularity of new weight loss products, health experts warn about dangerous side effects.

It seems that everyone wants to lose weight. With the obesity epidemic still in full swing, people are turning to any means necessary in the hopes of cutting down on their weight as quickly as possible. Toward that end, weight loss drugs have skyrocketed in popularity, with many people leaning into this approach as a way to trim back their waistline. As the popularity of such drugs rises, however, so too do poison control calls. Not all of those calls are an emergency, to be sure, but the dramatic rise in poison control issues related to semaglutide – the active ingredient in the drugs in question – does speak to the need for some improvements in public education and overall safety.

The use of drugs that feature semaglutide has surged incredibly over recent years, and the jump in calls to poison control centers has mirrored that increase, as well. Incredibly, prescriptions for this drug are up over 900% over just the last few years, as it has been seen that the drug can help people lose weight effectively. While it wasn’t originally intended to be a weight loss treatment, it has proven to be very popular for exactly that purpose.

Over the same time that the use of semaglutide drugs has gone up over 900%, poison control centers are also getting more than 15 times as many calls related to its use. The issues that those callers are facing range from case to case, including questions about potential side effects, how frequently the drug can be used, and more. In some cases, however, the calls are more urgent, with health issues being reported and assistance being required.

As Demand for Semaglutide Rises, So Too Do Poison Control Calls
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Complicating the issues surrounding semaglutide is the matter of compounding pharmacies and the versions of this drug that they create. Since the name brand drugs that use semaglutide as their active ingredient are very expensive – as much as $1,000 per month – individuals who want to lose weight in this manner sometimes turn to compounding pharmacies for a more affordable alternative.

In those cases, the pharmacies are creating their own compounds with raw ingredients to arrive at a version of semaglutide that is much less expensive. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to trade the ingredients that were used to make sure they are safe, so people taking that approach might be putting themselves at risk for a different reason. All potential users of this drug should be very careful to ensure that their source is trustworthy and safe.

If people continue to see weight loss results when using drugs that contain semaglutide, it seems unlikely that the popularity of this approach will wane anytime soon. With that said, it’s always important for drugs to be used safely, no matter what they are or what they are designed to treat. It seems necessary that improvements are made to the system so fewer people have concerns when using the drug or find themselves in a position where they are sick and need assistance.


Poison control centers report increase in calls related to drugs used for weight loss

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