How Ozempic Works: The Science Behind the Medication

It’s likely you’ve already heard about Ozempic. It’s become one of the most popular weight loss drugs in recent years, even though it hasn’t been approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration for weight loss yet. Here we’ll do a deep dive into how this prescription drug works, explaining the science behind it so you can make informed decisions on your weight loss journey. 

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a medication that comes in the form of a pre-filled pen, which you self-inject once-weekly. We mentioned that it isn’t yet approved by the FDA for weight loss – but it is approved for its primary purpose – which is to treat people with type 2 diabetes. Over many years of studying patients with type 2 diabetes in clinical trials, it became clear that one of the secondary effects of this medication is that it causes significant weight loss and is prescribed by our medical team off-license.

 The Role of GLP-1

Semaglutide – the active ingredient in Ozempic – belongs to a category of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. Semaglutide is the same active found in Wegovy and compounded (unbranded) semaglutide 

What is GLP-1?

The body naturally produces the peptide hormone GLP-1 when we eat. This triggers insulin production and helps the body’s cells absorb glucose from our food. A GLP-1 receptor agonist like Ozempic, is a synthetic drug that mimics this natural process. Once administered – in this case through a subcutaneous injection – it activates the GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas, brain, and stomach. 

How does GLP-1 affect blood sugar levels?

Once these GLP-1 receptors have been activated, blood sugar levels are regulated by increasing insulin secretion and inhibiting glucagon secretion. [1] 

Ozempic and Weight Loss: Mechanism of action for weight loss with Ozempic

In addition to regulating blood sugar levels in individuals, semaglutide also affects the brain’s hunger and satiety centers. This leads to a decrease in appetite and an increase in feelings of fullness. This GLP-1 treatment also slows stomach emptying which also has the effect of feeling fuller for longer, suppressing appetite and improving satiety. [2]

Safety and Side Effects of Ozempic

As with any weight loss medication, mild adverse effects like gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can occur. While these are common, we recommend getting in touch with your healthcare provider or Levity clinical team if these symptoms persist or worsen or if you experience any of the less common or rare side effects mentioned below.

Common side effects of Ozempic

Examples of potential side effects experienced by more than 1 in 10 patients include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation [3] and potential episodes of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), reactions at the injection site and reduced appetite. These side effects usually lessen over time.

Serious side effects and when to seek medical attention

Uncommon (affecting 1 in 100 people) and rare side effects (1 in 1,000 people) may include hypoglycemia, allergic responses or inflammation of the pancreas –  pancreatitis – persistent abdominal pain or liver enzyme abnormalities. You can contact your Levity team here if you have any concerns about your Ozempic side effects. 

Clinical Studies on Ozempic

In clinical trials, we’ve seen those taking Ozempic lose up to 7% of their body weight in a year. At Levity, we include Health Coaching in the cost of your treatment to help you support your weight management with healthy dietary choices and a physically active lifestyle. [4] 

For those of you that have comprehensively studied the various different treatment options available, you may have noticed that Wegovy’s trial results show an up to 15% reduction in body weight. Although both weight loss injections use the active ingredient semaglutide, Wegovy is available at a slightly higher maximum dose – also called a maintenance dose. 

Discussing Ozempic with your Healthcare Provider

As all GLP-1 weight loss medications are only available on prescription, it’s necessary to go to your doctor or to use an online health care provider like Levity to begin treatment. 

Key points to discuss with your healthcare provider before starting Ozempic

Before you and your doctor or Levity clinician begin, it’s important to discuss your weight loss goals and expectations. So you have realistic expectations of your medication.

Another point to consider is the cost of Ozempic. Because it isn’t FDA- approved as a weight loss treatment, you can only get Ozempic off-label for weight loss. So while you’ll still enjoy full clinical support throughout your weight loss journey, it’s not possible to pay for it using your health insurance.  

If FDA-approval or insurance coverage is a priority for you, you might think about alternative GLP-1 drugs that are approved for weight loss, like Mounjaro, Wegovy and Saxenda

There are less expensive alternatives too. It’s possible to get a generic (unbranded) semaglutide treatment from Levity – called compounded semaglutide. This costs just $225 monthly, compared to Ozempic which is priced at $1,199.

Tips for using Ozempic effectively and safely

Finally, let’s talk about your dosage. Ozempic is a drug that requires titration. This is a method of dosing medications so you can get the maximum benefits while experiencing minimal side effects. It works by gradually increasing your dose of semaglutide every month until you achieve the maintenance dose. 

In order to graduate doses each month, you’ll need to check in with your healthcare professional or Levity clinical team, so they can monitor your progress and address any changes or side effects. 

If you’re ready to lose weight and keep it off with Levity –  you can start your consultation here. You’ll be asked to complete an online questionnaire to understand your medical history and weight loss goals. Then, if Ozempic is the right treatment for you, our clinical team will prescribe and ship your medication to you along with instructions for administering your pre-filled pens at home.


1. Introduction [Internet]. Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health; 2019. Available from: 

2. Latif W, Lambrinos KJ, Rodriguez R. Compare And Contrast the Glucagon-like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists (GLP1RAs) [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Available from: 

3. Gorgojo-Martínez JJ, Mezquita-Raya P, Carretero-Gómez J, Castro A, Cebrián-Cuenca A, de Torres-Sánchez A, et al. Clinical Recommendations to Manage Gastrointestinal Adverse Events in Patients Treated with Glp-1 Receptor Agonists: A Multidisciplinary Expert Consensus. Journal of Clinical Medicine [Internet]. 2023 Jan 1;12(1):145. Available from: 

‌4. Wilding JPH, Batterham RL, Calanna S. Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or Obesity. The New England Journal of Medicine [Internet]. 2021 Feb 10;384(11):989–1002. Available from: 

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