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Some patients using the popular diabetes drug Ozempic and Wegovy are developing severe gastroparesis, also known as stomach paralysis, after using the medication, according to an investigative piece conducted by CNN. 

On July 25, the outlet published a shocking interview piece in which two women claimed that their stomachs were paralyzed after using Ozempic, a semaglutide drug that has become popular in Hollywood for its powerful weight loss side effects.

Joanie Knight, a 37-year-old woman from Louisiana, claimed that she experienced “violent” vomiting after taking Ozempic for two years. While visiting a gastroenterologist specialist, her doctor discovered mounds of undigested food in her stomach.

“I wish I never touched it. I wish I’d never heard of it in my life,” Knight told CNN. “This medicine made my life hell. So much hell. It has cost me money. It cost me a lot of stress; it cost me days and nights and trips with my family. It’s cost me a lot, and it’s not worth it. The price is too high.”

Emily Wright, a school teacher from Toronto and a diabetes patient, used Ozempic to help control her blood sugar and weight, according to the outlet. But after shedding 80 pounds, Wright began to vomit almost every day. Her severe vomiting spells spiraled out of control, forcing her to take a leave of absence from work. 

In 2020, the 38-year-old was hospitalized with dehydration due to her condition. “I’ve almost been off Ozempic for a year, but I’m still not back to my normal,” Wright said. 

According to CNN, both women were diagnosed with severe gastroparesis, a disorder that slows down or completely stops the movement of food traveling from the stomach to the small intestine, the Mayo Clinic notes. Wright was diagnosed with cyclic vomiting syndrome, a severe form of gastroparesis that causes an individual to throw up multiple times a day.

Ozempic, taken by injection, helps patients to control their weight and diabetes by mimicking a natural hormone in the body called GLP-1, which helps to slow down the passage of food through the stomach. This is what helps people to regulate their satiety and hunger cravings. Complications, like stomach paralysis, can occur if the stomach slows down too much. On the prescription package, Ozempic does warn patients of nausea and vomiting listed under the “adverse reactions” label.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a statement about the dangerous side effect.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said they were aware of the rising issue, but they claimed they were unable to determine if the medication was truly the cause of the side effect. “Gastroparesis can be a complication of diabetes that is related to long-standing or poorly controlled disease, further complicating the ability to determine what role the drugs played in the reported events,” the agency told CNN.

When asked if patients with slow digestion should be warned about using Ozempic, the FDA said that the “benefits of the medication could still outweigh its risks,” according to CNN. “Regulations pertaining to drug labeling state that a drug should be contraindicated only in those clinical situations for which the risk from use clearly outweighs any possible therapeutic benefit. Only known hazards, and not theoretical possibilities, can be the basis for a contraindication,” the agency added. 

Novo Nordisk, the company that produces Ozempic and its close sibling Wegovy, said gastrointestinal issues were “a well-known” side effect of the popular weight loss drug. 

“For semaglutide, the majority of GI side effects are mild to moderate in severity and of short duration. GLP-1’s are known to cause a delay in gastric emptying, as noted in the label of each of our GLP-1 RA medications,” the company, who claimed that there was extensive testing and trials conducted on the issue, added.

How is Ozempic impacting Black women?

Over the last year, Ozempic and Wegovy have become a weight loss power tool in the Black community, particularly among Black women. Ads for the popular medication are plastered across TV commercials and social media. According to NBC News, in June, more than 4,00o active ad campaigns for the popular weight loss drug were promoted across Facebook and Instagram.

A study conducted by Nielsen in 2017 found that 72% of Black women used Facebook. Instagram, Twitter and YouTube were also “sites visited more frequently by Black women.” 

Black American women are among the largest consumer groups of social media in the United States. A 2021 survey by Sage Journals noted that Black women often use social media as a tool to access information, entertainment and engage in social interaction.  It’s also a place for some Black women to forge meaningful connections and community. With Ozempic being plastered across social media, it could be pushing some Black women to try the popular weight loss trend.

Additionally, researchers believe that the drug is flying off shelves due to its considerable star power. Popular celebs like Elon Musk, Chelsea Handler and The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Dolorez Cantina have admitted to taking the drug to slim down.

Black women are sharing mixed reactions about the drug on TikTok.

On TikTok, multiple Black women have praised Ozempic for helping them to shed pounds. Some have been documenting their success stories. Iris Felder, a popular influencer on the platform, has garnered over 27,ooo followers on the social media app from sharing her Ozempic weight loss journey.

According to her recent interview with The Today Show, Felder lost 14 pounds since starting her prescription in February.

Felder pairs her daily injections with diet and exercise to help decrease her weight. The TikTok star, who couldn’t slim down due to a hormonal issue, isn’t afraid to talk about some of the side effects that come along with using the drug, like constipation and exhaustion.

But some Black women don’t have the best experience with Ozempic. A TikTok user named @thereselee6 alleged that she had excruciating headaches and dizziness after taking the medication for three weeks.

Ozempic isn’t prescribed over the counter. Doctors normally prescribe patients with diabetes Ozempic to help them manage their blood sugar. If you don’t have diabetes but are interested in taking the medication for weight loss, an individual can get an off-label prescription for Ozempic from a healthcare professional or clinic after a thorough evaluation and testing, according to Healthline. It’s normally prescribed to people with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or higher. The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) notes that people with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 would typically be classified as overweight, while individuals with a BMI over 30 are classified under the obesity label.

Unfortunately, obesity is a huge problem in the Black community. Over 75% of Black Americans have obesity, and four out of five Black women are at risk of developing the disease, according to the CDC.

Black women are also disproportionately impacted by diabetes. The American Diabetes Association notes that around 4.9 million African American people aged 20 years or older have been diagnosed with the disease. African American women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy face a 52% increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the future, the association added.

Cost barriers and low inventory are preventing some Black women from accessing the medication.

Due to the increased weight loss popularity of Ozempic, some Black men and women, who are in dire need of medication for diabetes and obesity treatment, are having a hard time accessing the drug.

Five years ago, comedian and writer ShantaQuilette Develle Carter-Williams was prescribed Ozempic by her doctor after she suffered a massive stroke. The Los Angeles-based producer could not work due to her health crisis.

“I was eating and gaining weight, and I was just really concerned that if I do continue to keep this weight on, the possibilities of having another stroke are very high,” Carter-Williams told NPR in April.

After using the drug, she began to experience rapid weight loss, and her blood sugar level dropped instantaneously, but after a few months of taking the drug, Carter-Williams had difficulty refilling her prescription due to low availability in the area. “I was going to renew my dosage, and they were like, ‘Oh, we don’t have it,’” the writer said.

The cost of Ozempic also skyrocketed. Carter-Williams went from paying $25 a month to a whopping $1,600 because she couldn’t find a pharmacy that took her insurance.

According to Ro, if you qualify for insurance coverage, Ozempic can cost as little as $25 for a monthly supply. However, without insurance, Ozempic typically costs around $892.06 per month, on average, making it hard for some Black women to afford the medication.

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