Wegovy side effects

Reviewed and fact-checked by Alessandro Grenci, Superintendent Pharmacist. Read our editorial policy to see how we create informative, accurate content.

Wegovy (semaglutide) is a relatively new medication that has been approved for chronic weight management. Developed as a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, Wegovy functions similarly to a natural hormone in the body that regulates appetite and food intake. It has been shown to be effective in helping people lose weight, particularly those who have obesity or are overweight and have weight-related health problems.

Understanding the side effects of any medication is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers. While Wegovy offers benefits in weight management, it is accompanied by a range of side effects that can impact the quality of life and the overall health of the individual. Common side effects include gastrointestinal issues, while more serious side effects, although less common, can also occur. It is important for patients to be informed about these potential side effects and for healthcare providers to monitor and manage these effects to ensure safe and effective use of the medication.


Common Side Effects

The most commonly reported group of side-effects when taking Wegovy is gastrointestinal issues. These side effects are a direct consequence of the medication's mechanism of action, which involves slowing gastric emptying and affecting various digestive processes. The most commonly reported gastrointestinal side effects include:

  • Nausea: Affecting a significant proportion of patients, nausea is often reported during the initial stages of treatment and tends to decrease over time.
  • Diarrhoea: Approximately 30% of patients experience diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration if not managed properly. Staying hydrated and consuming high-fiber foods are recommended strategies for managing this side effect.
  • Vomiting: Vomiting is another common side effect, experienced by about one in four patients. It is usually transient and improves within a few days.
  • Constipation: Reported in Wegovy studies, constipation can be managed by increasing dietary fiber intake and staying hydrated.
  • Abdominal Pain and Indigestion: Many patients experience mild abdominal pain and indigestion, often linked to other gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, diarrhoea, and constipation.

In addition to gastrointestinal issues, Wegovy users may encounter other frequent side effects, including:

  • Headache: A common side effect, headaches may diminish as the body adjusts to the medication.
  • Fatigue: Patients may experience low energy levels, particularly in the early stages of treatment.
  • Dizziness: Some individuals report feeling dizzy, which could be related to changes in blood pressure or blood sugar levels.
  • Heartburn: Gastroesophageal reflux disease or heartburn is another side effect that patients may experience.
  • Runny Nose or Sore Throat: Although less directly related to the medication's action on the digestive system, some patients report respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose or sore throat.

The likeliness of these common side effects:

  • nausea 44%
  • diarrhoea 30%
  • vomiting 24%
  • constipation 24%
  • stomach-area pain 20%
  • feeling bloated 7%
  • heartburn 5%
  • belching or gas 6%

Serious Side Effects

While Wegovy (semaglutide) is an effective medication for chronic weight management, it is not without potential serious side effects, which are less common but can be significant. Patients and healthcare providers should be vigilant for the following serious adverse reactions:

  • Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia): Particularly in patients with type 2 diabetes who are also taking medications for their diabetes, there is a risk of hypoglycemia. Symptoms can include dizziness, sweating, and confusion. It is important to monitor blood sugar levels and adjust diabetes medications as necessary when using Wegovy.
  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis, has been reported in patients using Wegovy. Symptoms may include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, or vomiting. If pancreatitis is suspected, immediate medical attention is required.
  • Gallbladder Problems: Gallbladder issues, such as cholelithiasis and cholecystitis, have been associated with Wegovy. Symptoms can include abdominal pain and nausea. These conditions may require medical intervention.
  • Severe Allergic Reactions: Although rare, Wegovy can cause severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis and angioedema. Symptoms may include swelling of the face, mouth, and throat, difficulty breathing, a rapid resting heartbeat, and feeling faint. These reactions necessitate immediate medical attention.
  • Potential Risk for Thyroid Cancer or Tumors: Animal studies have shown a potential risk for thyroid cancer or tumors associated with the class of drugs that includes Wegovy. However, the European Medicines Agency has stated that current evidence does not support a causal association between GLP-1 receptor agonists like Wegovy and thyroid cancers in humans. Nevertheless, manufacturers are required to continue monitoring thyroid cancer events closely.


Impact on Daily Life and Management

The side effects of Wegovy (semaglutide), while manageable, can have a significant impact on a patient's daily life. Understanding and managing these side effects is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers to ensure the medication's benefits outweigh its drawbacks.

Strategies for Coping with Side Effects

Effective management of side effects not only improves the patient's quality of life but also ensures adherence to the treatment plan, which is critical for achieving the desired outcomes.

  • Gradual Dose Escalation: One of the key strategies to minimize gastrointestinal discomfort is to start with a lower dose of Wegovy and gradually increase it. This allows the body to adjust to the medication, potentially reducing the severity of side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
  • Importance of Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is particularly important for patients experiencing nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea. Adequate hydration can help prevent dehydration and alleviate some of the discomfort associated with these side effects.

In addition to altering dosage and staying hydrated the following dieatary considerations may help:

  • eating more slowly
  • consuming smaller meals
  • selecting more bland, low-fat foods (like crackers, toast and rice)
  • avoiding greasy, fried foods
  • eating foods that contain water (like soup or gelatin)
  • not lying down after eating
  • going outside for fresh air

By implementing these strategies and maintaining open communication with healthcare providers, patients can effectively manage the side effects of Wegovy, improving their overall treatment experience and outcomes.

Interactions with Other Medications

Wegovy (semaglutide) has been identified to interact with a wide range of medications, which can influence its efficacy and the effectiveness of other drugs. Understanding these interactions is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers to ensure safe and effective use of Wegovy in conjunction with other treatments.

How Wegovy May Affect the Efficacy of Other Medications

Wegovy is known to interact with approximately 250 medications, including both major and moderate interactions. These interactions can affect how Wegovy works or how other medications work when taken together. For instance, medications that require rapid gastric passage for absorption may be affected by Wegovy's mechanism of action, which slows down gastric emptying. This delay can potentially reduce the effectiveness of other medications by slowing their absorption into the bloodstream.

Slowed Stomach Emptying and Its Impact

One of the main effects of Wegovy on the body is delayed gastric emptying, which means that food moves more slowly through the stomach. This can impact the absorption of other medications that are taken orally, as they may not reach the small intestine as quickly as needed for optimal absorption. This effect necessitates careful timing of medication intake and may require adjustments to dosing schedules to ensure therapeutic effectiveness.

Adjustments in Diabetes Treatment to Avoid Hypoglycemia

For patients with diabetes, particularly those on medications for diabetes management, the use of Wegovy requires careful monitoring and possible adjustments. Wegovy's action of reducing blood sugar levels can compound the effects of other diabetes medications, leading to a risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). It is crucial for healthcare providers to monitor patients' blood sugar levels closely and adjust diabetes medications as necessary to prevent hypoglycemia.

Patient Considerations and Decision-Making

The decision to use Wegovy (semaglutide) for weight loss involves careful consideration of various factors by both patients and healthcare providers. This decision-making process is critical to ensure that the benefits of the medication outweigh the potential risks and side effects for the individual patient.

Weighing the Benefits Against the Potential Side Effects

One of the primary considerations for patients contemplating Wegovy is the balance between the medication's benefits and its potential side effects. Wegovy has been proven effective in promoting significant weight loss and improving health outcomes related to obesity, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. However, the medication can also cause a range of side effects, from mild gastrointestinal issues to more serious conditions such as pancreatitis and gallbladder disease. Patients must evaluate whether the potential for improved health and weight loss justifies the risk of experiencing these side effects.

The Role of Healthcare Providers in Guiding Patients Through Treatment Options

Healthcare providers play a crucial role in the decision-making process for patients considering Wegovy. At medino you are required to fill out a questionnaire and one of our pharmacists will then contact you to discuss your unique situation in order to determine if Wegovy is for you.

Furthermore, we will continue to support and monitor the progress of patients once they start the treatment. This ongoing guidance is essential for maximizing the medication's benefits while minimizing its risks.

Sources AAFP - Steps Semaglutide Obesity
Beyond Healthy MD - Wegovy Side Effects
BHF - Medication Side Effects Tips
Better Health VIC - Medicines and Side Effects
CCJM - Wegovy Side Effects
CNN - Weight Loss Diabetes Drugs Gastroparesis
Concierge MD LA - Weight Loss Medication and Gallbladder Disease
Derbyshire Healthcare - Side Effects
Diabetes Strong - Wegovy Side Effects
Diabetes UK - Wegovy Key Facts
Drugs.com - Semaglutide Wegovy Interactions
Drugs.com - Wegovy Side Effects
Drugs.com - Wegovy
EMA - Wegovy Medicine Overview
EMA - Wegovy Risk Management Plan Summary
EMA - Wegovy
FDA - Finding and Learning About Side Effects
FDA - Wegovy Label
Forbes - No Proven Link Between Weight Loss Drugs and Thyroid Cancer
Forbes - Weight Loss Drugs Stomach Issues
Frontiers in Endocrinology
Gastroenterology Advisor - Semaglutide Adverse Events
GoodRx - Wegovy Interactions
Health.com - Weight Loss Drugs Gastrointestinal Side Effects
Health Express - Semaglutide Side Effects
Healthline - Semaglutide Thyroid Cancer
Healthline - Wegovy Side Effects
LifeMD - Wegovy Drug Interactions
Mayo Clinic - Semaglutide Side Effects
Medical News Today - Wegovy Interactions
Medical News Today - Wegovy Side Effects
Medicines.org.uk - Wegovy PIL
MyJuniper - Wegovy Side Effects
NBC News - Ozempic Wegovy Stomach Problems
NCBI - PMC7003519
NCBI - PMC8294388
NCBI - PMC8717485
Nature - S41591-022-02026-4
Nuffield Trust - Medication Side Effects
NovoMedLink - Legacy of Semaglutide
NovoMedLink - Wegovy Adverse Reactions
NovoMedLink - Wegovy Dosing
Now Patient - Wegovy Medication with Other Drugs
Parkview - Understanding Your Medications
PrivateDoc - Wegovy Side Effects
PubMed - 1287024
PubMed - 34706925
Reuters - EU Regulator on GLP-1 Drugs and Thyroid Cancer
Reuters - GI Side Effect Risk
RxList - Wegovy
UCI Health - Ozempic Wegovy Caution
Verywell Health - Foods to Avoid on Ozempic
Wegovy - FAQ
Wegovy Official Website
WebMD - Wegovy Subcutaneous Details

Written by Christian Jakobsson