How Long Can You Stay on Ozempic For Weight Loss?

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Vanessa Gibbs

Published 04/05/2024

You know Ozempic® can help with weight loss, but how long can you stay on Ozempic exactly? Unfortunately, there isn’t a solid answer to this question yet.

Like snowflakes, music tastes and weird celebrity crushes, everyone’s weight loss journey is different. And similarly, how long you can take Ozempic is highly individual.

Ozempic is a diabetes drug sometimes prescribed off-label for weight loss. (Off-label use means it’s prescribed for something other than what the FDA approved it for.) So there’s no set timeframe for how long you’ll stay on it if you’re taking it as a weight loss medication.

It’ll probably take several months to lose a significant amount of weight. But when you stop taking Ozempic will depend on several factors, including your starting weight, goal weight and if you have any existing health conditions.

Read on to find out if you have to take Ozempic forever, the risks of long-term use and what alternative weight loss medications are out there.

There’s no set time frame for how long you can stay on Ozempic for weight loss. If you’re tolerating it well, you might be able to stay on Ozempic until you reach your goal weight. This could be several months or potentially multiple years.

This is something you’ll want to discuss with your healthcare provider. They may recommend taking the medication until you reach your goal weight or longer for long-term weight management.

How long you take Ozempic will depend on:

  • Your starting weight

  • Your goal weight

  • Whether you have any underlying medical conditions

  • Whether you make nutrition and exercise changes alongside taking Ozempic

  • How well you tolerate the drug and dose increases

In short, how long you can stay on Ozempic will all depend on you and your body. Your provider can monitor your health on Ozempic to determine if and when you need to come off the drug.

Side Effects May Dictate How Long You Take Ozempic

You know what they say about best-laid plans. As with any prescription drug, Ozempic comes with potential side effects.

So, even if a healthcare provider thinks you’ll be a good candidate for it, you never know how your body will react. You could experience side effects severe enough that you stop treatment earlier than planned.

Common side effects of Ozempic include:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Constipation

Most of these happen when the dose of Ozempic goes up.

Is Ozempic long term? There isn’t much research into long-term Ozempic use, but it appears to be safe. As mentioned, Ozempic is approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) as a diabetes drug to help those with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels.

So, it is designed to be taken long term. And research spanning one to two years shows that semaglutide — the active ingredient in Ozempic — is safe.

Ozempic Clinical Trials for Weight Loss

A 2022 review rounded up the results from the STEP (Semaglutide Treatment Effect in People with obesity) clinical trials. These trials looked at how a weekly 2.4-milligram (mg) semaglutide injection affected people with excess body weight and obesity.

STEP 1, 3, 4 and 8 trials looked at participants with overweight and obesity without type 2 diabetes. These studies found an average weight loss ranging from almost 15 percent to upwards of 17 percent over 68 weeks.

STEP 5 lasted 104 weeks — two years! — and found that average weight loss was about 15 percent at the end of the study.

If you’re wondering, other STEP trials looked at participants with type 2 diabetes.

Semaglutide was relatively well tolerated in these studies. Participants experienced gastrointestinal side effects, but most of these side effects were short in duration and mild or moderate in severity.

How Long Does It Take to Start Losing Weight on Ozempic?

Research from 2021 looked at almost 2,000 adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher or 27 or higher with at least one weight-related health condition.

Participants took a weekly 2.4-milligram injection of semaglutide alongside making some lifestyle changes. They showed weight loss by the four-week mark, and this weight loss continued for the duration of the 68-week study.

So weight loss can happen relatively quickly on Ozempic, but that doesn’t mean you’ll come off the drug quickly.

If you don’t have diabetes, you probably won’t have to take Ozempic forever. You might take the drug until you reach your goal weight and a healthcare provider advises you to stop taking it.

That said, Ozempic is  suitable for long-term weight management.

A 2021 review looked at the results from three semaglutide clinical trial programs. It concluded that a significant benefit of semaglutide was that it can be used “for long-term management of weight.”

The review also noted that Wegovy® (the higher-dose version of Ozempic made by the same manufacturer, Novo Nordisk) “is supposed to be used for long-term weight management.”

But some people gain some of the weight they’ve lost when they stop taking semaglutide.

So, can you stay on Ozempic for life to keep the weight off? In theory, you could. But although it may be safe, the cost, potential shortages and unknown long-term risks might stop you from doing so.

Can You Stop Taking Ozempic at Any Time?

You certainly don’t need to take Ozempic indefinitely or power through if the side effects get to be too much. However, you shouldn’t abruptly stop using the medication (or any prescription drug, for that matter) without letting your prescribing healthcare provider know.

Your provider can offer guidance on when and how to stop semaglutide injections.

Prescribed online

Weight loss treatment that puts you first

Ozempic is still a relatively new drug, so it’s unclear what the risks of taking it are long term.

The 2022 review we mentioned earlier found the drug to be relatively safe over trials ranging from 68 weeks to 104 weeks, but we don’t know much beyond that point.

Here’s what we know about Ozempic’s health risks.

The drug comes with a black box FDA warning stating that semaglutide causes thyroid C-cell tumors in rodents. Sounds scary, but it’s currently unclear if Ozempic causes thyroid tumors or thyroid cancer in humans.

For now, people with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) or with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2) shouldn’t take Ozempic.

Beyond that, serious health issues were reported in clinical trials, including:

  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)

  • Diabetic retinopathy complications (an eye disease)

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if you take an insulin secretagogue or insulin

  • Acute kidney injury

  • Acute gallbladder disease

Seek medical advice if you notice any serious side effects.

Ozempic isn’t your only option if you’re considering weight loss drugs.

There are other weight loss injections, such as:

  • Semaglutide (Wegovy — the higher-dose version of Ozempic FDA-approved for weight loss)

  • Tirzepatide (Zepbound® and off-label Mounjaro®)

  • Liraglutide (Saxenda® and off-label Victoza®)

There are also non-injectable weight loss medications, such as:

  • Semaglutide (Rybelsus®)

  • Off-label metformin

  • Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave®)

  • Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia®)

  • Orlistat (Xenical®)

  • Topiramate (Topamax®)

How long you can stay on these other weight loss medications also varies wildly. It’ll ultimately depend on your weight loss goals, overall health and how the drug works for your body.

Of course, there are also drug-free weight loss interventions you can try, such as nutritional plans, exercise routines and behavioral change tools and services.

Theoretically, you could stay on Ozempic forever, as long as you’re tolerating the drug well. However, that doesn’t mean you should stay on Ozempic for the long haul. A healthcare provider can help you decide whether to go on and stay on Ozempic and when to come off.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • How long you can stay on Ozempic is super personal. Ozempic isn’t FDA-approved for weight loss, so there’s no set time limit for taking it. It’ll depend on things like your starting weight, goal weight, medical history, lifestyle interventions and how well you tolerate the drug.

  • Long-term Ozempic use seems safe. It’s designed as a long-term diabetes medication, after all. Studies spanning up to two years show semaglutide is relatively safe and that side effects are mild to moderate and often resolve with time. But we’re still learning about Ozempic’s long-term effects.

  • Weight gain can happen when you come off Ozempic. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should stay on the medication forever. Chat with a healthcare provider for advice on stopping the drug and personalized guidance on keeping weight loss off.

If you’re still exploring your options, know that Ozempic isn’t the only weight loss treatment out there. Check out our guide to Ozempic versus metformin, for example.

And whatever you choose, there’s plenty of support to help you along the way.

5 Sources

  1. Highlights of Prescribing Information Ozempic. (n.d.). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2023/209637s020s021lbl.pdf
  2. Bergmann, N. C., Davies, M. J., Lingvay, I., & Knop, F. K. (2023). Semaglutide for the treatment of overweight and obesity: A review. Diabetes, obesity & metabolism, 25(1), 18–35. https://dom-pubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1111/dom.14863
  3. Wilding, J. P. H., Batterham, R. L., Calanna, S., Davies, M., Van Gaal, L. F., Lingvay, I., McGowan, B. M., Rosenstock, J., Tran, M. T. D., Wadden, T. A., Wharton, S., Yokote, K., Zeuthen, N., Kushner, R. F., & STEP 1 Study Group (2021). Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or Obesity. The New England journal of medicine, 384(11), 989–1002. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2032183
  4. Singh, G., Krauthamer, M., & Bjalme-Evans, M. (2022). Wegovy (semaglutide): a new weight loss drug for chronic weight management. Journal of investigative medicine : the official publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research, 70(1), 5–13. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1136/jim-2021-001952
  5. Wilding, J. P. H., Batterham, R. L., Davies, M., Van Gaal, L. F., Kandler, K., Konakli, K., Lingvay, I., McGowan, B. M., Oral, T. K., Rosenstock, J., Wadden, T. A., Wharton, S., Yokote, K., Kushner, R. F., & STEP 1 Study Group (2022). Weight regain and cardiometabolic effects after withdrawal of semaglutide: The STEP 1 trial extension. Diabetes, obesity & metabolism, 24(8), 1553–1564. https://dom-pubs.pericles-prod.literatumonline.com/doi/10.1111/dom.14725
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