Obesity is a medical condition that can lead to other health problems. In the U.S., more than 42% of people have obesity, while 30-35% of Californians have obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Obesity is calculated through body mass index (BMI). This measures a person's height in relation to their weight. A BMI of 25-30 is considered overweight. A BMI of more than 30 is categorized as obesity.

Use this calculator to learn your BMI

Like any medical condition, there are different ways to manage obesity. This can include many different weight-loss medications, like Wegovy. If you're trying to lose weight, our experts offer advice on when it's the right time to start a medication.

How do weight loss medications work?

There are many types of prescription weight-loss medicines that work differently to help with weight loss. Some are for short-term use (less than 12 weeks). Some can be used for longer periods of time. Many weight loss medications have side effects.

Prescription weight-loss medicines work in one or more of the following ways:

  • Decrease appetite
  • Increase feelings of fullness
  • Interfere with fat absorption

Learn about the causes of obesity, including physical activity, eating habits and sleep

When should you start considering a weight loss medication?

FDA guidelines recommend that weight-loss medicines may be considered for people who have tried lifestyle changes and meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • BMI equal or greater than 30
  • BMI equal or greater than 27 with one or more obesity-related conditions (like high blood pressure or diabetes)
  • Have not lost at least 5% of their total body weight in three to six months with lifestyle changes alone

It's important for you to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of all weight-loss treatments. Weight-loss medications may not be the right treatment for everyone. Make sure your doctor knows your full medical history. Always talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any medicine.

Any weight-loss medicine should be taken along with lifestyle changes, such as exercise and a healthy diet – not in place of them.

Read more: What is primary care? Learn why you should partner with a provider for your health (from UC Davis Health)

What is the weight loss medication Wegovy (also known as semaglutide)?

Wegovy is a popular weight-loss medication made by the same company as Ozempic, which has been in the news a lot recently. Wegovy is a weekly injection approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2021 for long-term weight management. It's the first drug approved for this purpose since 2014.

Both Wegovy and Ozempic include the same active ingredient semaglutide. However, Ozempic has lower doses of semaglutide and was developed for people with type 2 diabetes. Wegovy contains higher doses of semaglutide and was formatted to help with weight loss.

I've heard about people using Ozempic for weight loss. Does it work?

It's become a popular trend: taking Ozempic for weight loss. It's a once-weekly injection that was approved by the FDA for use in adults with type 2 diabetes.

Ozempic is not approved for weight loss. However, semaglutide is approved for weight loss under the brand name Wegovy.

Ozempic can help people lose weight. However, experts recommend that people avoid using Ozempic for weight loss since it's meant for people with type 2 diabetes. Talk to your doctor about starting Wegovy instead if you're looking to lose weight.

Read more about Ozempic for weight loss: Does it work, and what do experts recommend? (from UC Davis Health)

Is there an off-brand version of Wegovy or Ozempic?

There are no approved generic versions of either of these drugs, according to the FDA. Off-brand versions of these drugs have been seen at compounding pharmacies across the U.S. People have reported adverse events to the FDA after using "generic" versions of semaglutide.

Since people started off-label use of Ozempic for weight loss, type 2 diabetes patients who rely on the medication have struggled to find it. Both Ozempic and Wegovy were listed on the FDA Drug Shortage List, as of September 2023.

What are some other options for weight loss medications?

Other weight loss medications you and your doctor can consider include:

  • Saxenda
  • Diethylpropion
  • Adipex-P and Lomaira
  • Qsymia

Like Ozempic, Mounjaro (tirzepatide) is another popular medication that has been used off label to help with weight loss. It's approved for people with type 2 diabetes to help lower blood sugar.