Good news: suicidal ideation is, according to the Food and Drug Administration, probably not among the list of bizarre side effects associated with semaglutide, the active ingredient in the diabetes injectable Ozempic and its weight management sister drug Wegovy.
As the FDA said in a press release, the agency hasn't yet found any "clear relationship" between semaglutide and suicidal thoughts, which doctors and patients alike had reported this year as the popular drug flew off shelves and began being so widely prescribed that pharmacies have barely been able to keep up with demand.
"Our preliminary evaluation has not found evidence that use of these medicines causes suicidal thoughts or actions," the FDA update reads.
Semaglutide belongs to a class of medicines called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, which mimic a gut enzyme that tells the brain when the stomach is full. Though the medical research community doesn't fully understand how GLP-1 agonists work, they have for years been known to both help diabetics regulate their insulin levels and to cause people to eat less and therefore lose weight.
As with any medication, semaglutide comes with risks, which notably includes some pretty gnarly gastrointestinal side effects ranging from nausea and vomiting to instances of stomach paralysis and bowel blockage.
More recently, however, anecdotal reports have begun cropping up associating the drug with suicidal thoughts, hence the FDA investigation and similar inquiries conducted in Europe and the United Kingdom about the mounting claims.
Last September, NBC News reported that the family of one man who died by suicide after starting Ozempic blames the drug for his death and believes it should carry a warning label over what they consider an associated risk between the drug and ideation.
"I think the Ozempic was putting these suicidal thoughts in his mind," the man's sister told the news outlet at the time.
In its press release about the results, the FDA pointed out that although neither clinical trials nor its own analysis showed a substantive association between GLP-1 agonists and suicidal thoughts, there was a small enough group of people who did experience ideation in the initial research to continue its investigation.
"Because of the small number of suicidal thoughts or actions observed in both people using GLP-1 [receptor agnoists] and in the comparative control groups," the press release reads, "we cannot definitively rule out that a small risk may exist; therefore, [the] FDA is continuing to look into this issue."
In a culture as weight-obsessed as ours, drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy may seem like a compelling way to help one shed pounds — but amid the perfect storm of media hype and their poorly-understood mechanisms, we're still watching to see whether the risks outweigh the benefits.
More on semaglutide scaries: Thousands of People Have Reportedly Overdosed on Ozempic
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