Wegovy vs. 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

Wegovy® versus Ozempic® for weight loss — it’s the age-old question. Okay, not that old. But it’s a common question amid the rising popularity of these weight loss drugs.

Wegovy and Ozempic come from the same pharmaceutical manufacturer, Novo Nordisk. They have the same active ingredient — semaglutide — and both can help you lose weight.

So, what’s the difference between Ozempic and Wegovy? Is Ozempic or Wegovy better for weight loss? We have answers.

Ozempic is approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to help patients with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels. It’s sometimes prescribed off-label for weight loss. Wegovy, on the other hand, is FDA-approved for chronic weight management.

To qualify for a Wegovy prescription based on the FDA’s guidelines, you’re supposed to have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more or 27 or more with at least one weight-related health condition.

Wegovy comes in higher doses than Ozempic and, therefore, can be more effective for weight loss.

We’ll go deeper into how Wegovy and Ozempic work, their side effects and the costs of each below.

Wegovy isn’t the same as Ozempic — but it also kind of is. Let us explain.

Wegovy and Ozempic are brand names for the same drug: semaglutide. They’re both once-a-week subcutaneous (under the skin) injections. Beyond that, they can both help with weight loss and are often prescribed alongside lifestyle changes, like a nutritious eating plan and increased physical activity.

But — and here’s where they differ — the medications are designed for different purposes and taken in different doses.

Ozempic is primarily a diabetes drug, whereas Wegovy is a weight loss drug with a higher dose of semaglutide than Ozempic.

Confusing? You betcha. Here’s a quick summary to help.

Ozempic:

  • It’s FDA-approved for those with type 2 diabetes to help with blood sugar control.

  • It can also reduce the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events in those with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

  • It’s prescribed off-label for weight loss, meaning it’s not designed (or FDA-approved) for weight loss but is sometimes used as a weight loss medication.

  • A healthcare provider may get you started on a 0.25-milligram (mg) dose of Ozempic. This could increase to 0.5 milligrams after four weeks, 1 milligram after another four weeks and 2 milligrams after four more weeks, if needed.

Wegovy:

  • It’s FDA-approved for people with a BMI of 30 or higher or 27 or higher with at least one weight-related medical condition, like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol.

  • A healthcare provider may get you started on a 0.25-milligram dose of Wegovy. This may increase every four weeks until you get to a maintenance dose of 2.4 milligrams.

Another way Wegovy and Ozempic are slightly different is that Ozempic packets come with one injection pen. You’ll attach new needles to the same pen each time you inject the medication until you get a new packet with a new pen.

Wegovy comes in pre-filled single-use pens. You’ll use each pen once and won’t need to attach a new needle every time.

As Wegovy and Ozempic are brand names for the same drug, semaglutide, they work in the same way for weight loss. They reduce your appetite and promote feelings of fullness, helping you reduce your food intake and lose weight.

But Wegovy may be more effective for weight loss because it’s taken in higher doses than Ozempic.

Here’s a run-through of how each medication works and its effectiveness for weight loss.

How Does Ozempic Work?

Semaglutide is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. It mimics a hormone made in your intestines known as GLP-1.

When you eat, your body produces GLP-1, and this prompts the production of insulin, which lowers your blood glucose levels. Higher levels of GLP-1 also influence a part of the brain that suppresses appetite and signals a feeling of fullness.

GLP-1 may also influence reward and motivation reactions toward food and decrease food’s palatability — which, again, can help you eat less and lose weight.

Even though it’s designed to be a diabetes drug, the doses of semaglutide you get with Ozempic have been shown to be effective for weight loss.

Clinical Trials on Ozempic for Weight Loss

A 2021 study compared a 1-milligram weekly injection of semaglutide to a 2-milligram dose in over 900 people with type 2 diabetes. The 2-milligram dose was found to induce more body weight loss than the 1-milligram dose.

After 40 weeks, those taking 1 milligram of semaglutide lost an average of about 13 pounds, whereas those taking 2 milligrams lost roughly 15 pounds on average.

But even tiny 0.5-milligram doses have been shown to induce weight loss.

A 2017 study looked at nearly 400 participants with type 2 diabetes who took either a 0.5-milligram dose of semaglutide, a 1-milligram dose or a placebo for 30 weeks. Those in the 0.5-milligram group lost an average of about eight pounds, and the 1-milligram group lost closer to 10 pounds on average.

Semaglutide has been shown to help those with and without type 2 diabetes lose weight.

How Does Wegovy Work?

Wegovy works in the same way as Ozempic, as it’s the same drug. It’s a GLP-1 receptor agonist that suppresses your appetite and promotes feelings of fullness to help you lose weight.

Clinical Trials on Wegovy for Weight Loss

A 2022 review looked at the Semaglutide Treatment Effect in People with obesity (STEP) clinical trials. These trials assessed the effectiveness of a 2.4-milligram dose of semaglutide — what you’d get with Wegovy — in people without type 2 diabetes but with excess weight or obesity.

Across trials, there was an average weight loss of around 15 to 17 percent after 68 weeks of treatment.

Since Wegovy is prescribed in higher doses, it can be more effective than Ozempic for weight loss.

A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis looked at eight studies with more than 4,500 participants. Participants had excess weight or obesity but not type 2 diabetes.

Semaglutide caused significant body weight loss, a reduction in BMI and a reduction in waist circumference.

These results were dose-dependent — i.e., the higher the dose, the more effective semaglutide was for weight loss. But smaller doses were still shown to be effective.

The study stated that semaglutide, at any dose, was better than a placebo for weight loss.

Your prescribing doctor will get you started on a lower dose of Ozempic or Wegovy and slowly increase the dose over the course of several weeks.

Prescribed online

Weight loss treatment that puts you first

You take Wegovy and Ozempic the same way. You inject the drugs into your stomach, thigh or upper arm once a week, at any time of day, with or without meals.

Missed a dose? Don’t panic. Take your prescribed Ozempic or Wegovy dose within five days of your usual injection day. If it’s been more than five days, skip the dose and take your next dose on your next scheduled injection day.

Can You Take Ozempic and Wegovy at the Same Time?

It’s unlikely a healthcare provider would prescribe Ozempic and Wegovy to be taken at the same time. Even for those who have diabetes and want to lose weight, one of these medications would cover both issues, as they contain the same active ingredient.

The side effects of Wegovy and Ozempic are very similar — one is just a higher-dose version of the other. Here’s what to keep an eye out for.

The most common side effects of Ozempic include:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Stomach pain

These side effects occurred in five percent or more of people in Ozempic clinical trials.

The most common side effects of Wegovy include:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Stomach pain

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)

  • Dizziness

  • Abdominal distention (bloating)

  • Eructation (burping)

  • Flatulence

  • Nasopharyngitis (the common cold)

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in those with type 2 diabetes

  • Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease

These side effects also occurred in five percent or more of people in Wegovy clinical trials.

Beyond the common GI (gastrointestinal) issues, Wegovy and Ozempic come with the risk of some more serious side effects.

For Ozempic, that includes:

  • 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

  • Hypersensitivity reactions like anaphylaxis and angioedema (swelling)

  • Acute gallbladder disease

Wegovy has the same serious side effects as Ozempic but also includes:

  • Heart rate increase

  • Suicidal behavior and ideation

Seek medical advice if you notice any changes in your mood or behavior.

Black Box Warnings and Safety Considerations

Both Ozempic and Wegovy come with black box warnings stating that semaglutide causes thyroid C-cell tumors in rats. It’s unclear whether the drugs can cause thyroid cancer or tumors in humans.

For the most part, though, Ozempic and Wegovy are considered safe. The 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis we mentioned earlier rounded up side effects from eight studies and concluded they were usually brief and mild-to-moderate in severity.

So, if you’re comparing Ozempic versus Wegovy side effects, there’s not much difference. But side effects can be more common in Wegovy, as it’s a higher dose of semaglutide.

Wegovy and Ozempic aren’t usually covered by insurance for weight loss. And they can be costly, especially if you take them for an extended period.

Here are the cold, hard numbers:

  • Ozempic can cost $900 to $1,000 a month without insurance.

  • Wegovy can cost $1,300 to $1,500 a month without insurance.

Yikes — we know. But if cost is a deciding factor, Ozempic may work out as the cheaper option.

More affordable weight loss options are out there, including our comprehensive weight loss program that starts at $79 per month.

Wegovy and Ozempic aren’t the only weight loss drugs to choose from.

Other weight loss injections include:

  • Saxenda® (liraglutide)

  • Victoza® (liraglutide)

  • Mounjaro® (tirzepatide)

  • Zepbound® (tirzepatide)

Non-injectable weight loss medications include:

  • Rybelsus®, with the same active ingredient (semaglutide) as Ozempic and Wegovy

  • Metformin

  • Contrave® (naltrexone-bupropion)

  • Topamax® (topiramate)

  • Qsymia® (phentermine-topiramate)

  • Xenical® (orlistat)

If you’re looking into weight loss treatments, drugs aren’t your only option, either.

Nutritional plans, exercise routines and tools to help with behavioral change can all support your weight loss journey — whether you decide to go on weight loss medication or not.

The time has come. The final showdown. Wegovy versus Ozempic for weight loss — which is better?

Both drugs are effective. The best one for you may depend on your health conditions, budget, insurance coverage or the availability of each medication — there have been some shortages in the weight loss medication market.

A healthcare provider can walk you through the pros and cons of each and go over your personal circumstances to help you make an informed decision.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Wegovy and Ozempic are brand names for semaglutide. They work in the same way and have largely the same side effects. Are Ozempic and Wegovy the same then? Not quite. Ozempic is FDA-approved for type 2 diabetes and prescribed off-label for weight loss, whereas Wegovy is FDA-approved for weight loss.

  • Wegovy is a higher-dose version of Ozempic. You’ll start on a small dose and slowly increase to a higher dosage, no matter which drug you’re on. But Ozempic doses are usually 1 or 2 milligrams, whereas Wegovy doses are usually 2.4 milligrams.

  • Wegovy seems to be more effective for weight loss. Research shows semaglutide can lead to weight loss in a dose-dependent fashion — that is, the higher the dose, the more effective it is. A higher dose may come with more side effects, though.

Want to see how other weight loss meds stack up? Check out our guide to Ozempic versus metformin.

And remember, Ozempic and Wegovy are just two options. Other injectable medications, oral medications and drug-free weight loss treatments are out there to help you achieve your goals.

10 Sources

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  2. Highlights of Prescribing Information Wegovy. (n.d.). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2023/215256s007lbl.pdf
  3. Medications Containing Semaglutide Marketed for Type 2 Diabetes or Weight Loss. (2024). https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/medications-containing-semaglutide-marketed-type-2-diabetes-or-weight-loss
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  6. Sorli, C., Harashima, S. I., Tsoukas, G. M., Unger, J., Karsbøl, J. D., Hansen, T., & Bain, S. C. (2017). Efficacy and safety of once-weekly semaglutide monotherapy versus placebo in patients with type 2 diabetes (SUSTAIN 1): a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, multinational, multicentre phase 3a trial. The lancet. Diabetes & endocrinology, 5(4), 251–260. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(17)30013-X/abstract
  7. 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
  8. Gao, X., Hua, X., Wang, X., Xu, W., Zhang, Y., Shi, C., & Gu, M. (2022). Efficacy and safety of semaglutide on weight loss in obese or overweight patients without diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Frontiers in pharmacology, 13, 935823. https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/pharmacology/articles/10.3389/fphar.2022.935823/full
  9. Ozempic Prices, Coupons & Savings Tips. (n.d.). https://www.goodrx.com/ozempic
  10. Wegovy Prices, Coupons & Savings Tips. (n.d.). https://www.goodrx.com/wegovy
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