This content was reviewed and approved for its accuracy on 10/03/2021 by Professor Frank Joseph

Photograph of Professor Frank Joseph, weight loss expert for myBMI

Semaglutide: An Medical Expert’s Guide

 

Semaglutide is the drug that’s contained in Wegovy and Ozempic injections.

Whilst it’s a relatively new treatment, it was first developed in 2012, and it was five years before it was first approved for use as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.

There is increasing evidence from clinical trials proving the effectiveness of Semaglutide for weight loss, and it has recently been licensed in the UK for this purpose.

 

So what is Semaglutide and where did this medication come from?

 

Our team are here to look through the history books and answer your questions, so keep reading to learn more about the history of Semaglutide.



What is Semaglutide?

 

Semaglutide is a type of medication called a GLP-1 Receptor Agonist, a group of medicines that work by affecting the hormones produced by your pancreas.

 

Semaglutide was originally created to help patients with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels.

 

When testing was conducted during the earlier stages of developing this medication many patients noticed that they were losing weight as well as treating their condition.

 

This revelation is what made scientists consider investigating and manufacturing Semaglutide for weight loss and eventually bringing it to our pharmacies.

 

Semaglutide is available in 3 forms at the moment, Wegovy, Ozempic, and Rybelsus, so let’s learn a little more about what these medications are for and why they could be right for you.

 

Wegovy

 

Wegovy is the brand name Semaglutide was given when it was licensed to be used as a weight-loss medication by its manufacturer.

 

Wegovy is a weekly weight loss injection that patients administer themselves using pre-measured doses in an injector pen.

 

It can be prescribed to people who are struggling with their weight and have found that other weight loss methods just don’t work for them.

 

Suitable patients for Wegovy include those with a BMI of 30 or more and those with a BMI of 27 or more who are at risk of developing weight-related medical conditions like type 2 diabetes.

 

As Wegovy is a prescription medication, potential patients will need to have a consultation with a qualified prescriber so they can assess whether this treatment is the best possible option.

 

If you are prescribed Wegovy, you will need to gradually increase your dosage over time, under the supervision of your healthcare team.

 

This will help you to get used to the medication and reduce side effects like nausea and vomiting.

 

Ozempic



After Semaglutide had been discovered, it was given the brand name Ozempic and manufactured by a global pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, which specialises in treatments for diabetes.



Ozempic first started going through clinical trials in 2015 and was approved in the USA for use as a type 2 diabetes treatment in 2017.



However, it wasn’t until 2 years later in 2019 when it was launched for use in the UK.



Semaglutide was developed to be a longer-acting alternative to Liraglutide, which is the active ingredient in Victoza and Saxenda.


Victoza is a once-daily injection that’s used for the same purposes as Ozempic, but manufacturers wanted to develop a drug that was more convenient for users by reducing how many times patients needed to self-inject.


Once Semaglutide was developed, it became apparent that the half-life of the medicine was a week, meaning that patients would only have to inject themselves once weekly instead of once a day.



Semaglutide has also undergone clinical trials known as the STEP trials (Semaglutide Treatment Effect in People with obesity); this time as a treatment for obesity under the brand name Wegovy



Results from the STEP trials show Semaglutide to be an effective treatment for weight loss in those with obesity, more so than other, similar drugs such as Saxenda.

 

Rybelsus

 

Rybelsus is the brand name for Semaglutide in tablet form, making it quite different to Wegovy and Ozempic.

 

Rybelsus is a type 2 diabetes treatment, working in the same way that the other Semaglutide formulas do.

 

As this medication is a tablet, it can be a better option for patients who don’t like needles or struggle to use the injector pen properly.

 

The active ingredient is the same as the other treatments on our list, so switching to Rybelsus tablets could help certain patients to feel more comfortable with their medication options.

 

Does Semaglutide work?

 

Semaglutide is a very effective GLP-1 receptor agonist, working by affecting the hormones that are responsible for hunger.

 

By affecting the hormones insulin and glucagon, Semaglutide helps to bring down your blood sugar by changing your appetite.

 

It helps to slow down the emptying of your stomach contents and helps you feel fuller for longer.

 

This helps type 2 diabetes patients by bringing down their blood sugar and helps weight loss patients by making it easier for them to stick to a lower-calorie diet.

 

Although the effect Semaglutide has on weight loss was not necessarily intended to begin with, the way it interacts with your hunger hormones has made it a very useful medication when it comes to weight management.

 

Who invented Semaglutide?

 

Jesper Lau, Vice President of Diabetes Protein and Peptide Chemistry at Novo Nordisk is credited with the invention and development of Semaglutide in 2012.

 

Lau has been at Novo Nordisk since 1990, and discovered Semaglutide along with a team of researchers and scientists at a Novo Nordisk lab in Denmark.

 

It had to be slightly modified from Liraglutide in order to make it a longer-acting substance for a once-weekly injection.

 

These structural modifications are the reason why you only have to inject Semaglutide once a week instead of daily Liraglutide injections like Saxenda or Victoza.

 

Who makes Semaglutide?

 

Semaglutide (as Wegovy, Ozempic, and Rybelsus) is manufactured by Novo Nordisk, as researchers developed the drug for the pharmaceutical company.



It is exclusively produced by the company and has been since its discovery.



Novo Nordisk is a global company with offices around the world, and a UK office based in West Sussex.



Their headquarters are located in Denmark, where the company produces Ozempic, alongside other medications.

 

Novo Nordisk also manufactures Saxenda and Victoza (Liraglutide), which is why the packaging on all of these medications is quite similar.

 

As this company owns the patents for these medicines, it will be a while before we see any generic versions on the market, but the first one to reach this milestone will be Victoza.

 

In the next few years, we’ll be able to gauge what will happen with unbranded versions of GLP-1 receptor agonists, so keep your eyes peeled for the news as it breaks.

 

Who owns Ozempic?

 

Lau and his team that discovered Semaglutide were all working for Novo Nordisk, and the company owns the patent and brand name for Ozempic.



The patent for Semaglutide is not due to expire until 2031, so it’s unlikely that we will see any generic alternatives for this medication until at least then.



Whilst it’s possible that we may start seeing some generic versions of these medicines soon, the more potent and longer-acting medication, Semaglutide, will remain under Novo Nordisk for the next 10 years at least.

 

However, ten years is a long time to wait for generic medicine, and by the time that rolls around, there may be new developments in weight loss medication that are even more effective.

 

It’s difficult to predict what those 10 years will bring (unless you’re a scientist who specialises in developing new medicines, of course), but our healthcare team will keep on the pulse of medical news so we can bring up to date information to you as quickly as we can.

 

Is Semaglutide available in the UK?

 

Semaglutide is available in the UK and it has now been licensed for both weight loss and type 2 diabetes.

 

As we’ve mentioned, Semaglutide is licensed under the brand name Wegovy for weight loss and Ozempic and Rybelsus for type 2 diabetes.

 

At the moment, it is only available as a diabetes medication on the NHS, but we may see Wegovy become a part of the NHS’s weight management program when it becomes more readily available in the UK.

 

You can obtain Semaglutide injections through private prescribers in the UK, but only if you are a suitable patient for weight loss or diabetes treatments.

 

You’ll need to go through a medical consultation before your prescriber will consider whether Semaglutide is the right treatment for you, and they will want to keep an eye on your progress throughout your treatment to make sure things are working as they should.

 

Where can I buy Semaglutide?


You can’t buy Semaglutide outright in the UK.

 

It can only be provided to patients who have a valid prescription written for this medication from a qualified medical professional.

 

Semaglutide isn’t available on the NHS yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get this medication if you are a suitable patient.

 

There are plenty of private prescribers available for weight loss consultations both online and in-person, so you should be able to find one to talk to quite quickly (you could even use our consultation services).

 

Because these are private services, you will need to pay for the consultation as well as any medicines or treatments you receive.

 

Here at myBMI, we offer a wide range of supplementary services which are included in the cost of service.

 

These services include access to supplementary treatments for any side effects you may experience during treatment (for example, antacids to ease indigestion) and access to our Facebook support group.

 

During your treatment, your prescriber will check in with you to ensure that you’re taking the right dose and aren’t having any other issues.

 



Now you know more about where Semaglutide comes from and why it’s used for both weight management and type 2 diabetes.

 

If you think this medication could be right for you, why not check out some of our other articles that explain how this revolutionary medication works and why it’s so effective.

 

Here are some of our most popular articles that are packed full of useful information about Semaglutide, Wegovy and other weight loss medications.

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Rybelsus is the brand name for the tablet form of Semaglutide.

 

Before Rybelsus was developed, the only way to take Semaglutide was via a subcutaneous injection.

There’s a lot to learn about Semaglutide, but we’re going to take it back to basics.

 

We’re going to find out what it’s used for and why it may be prescribed to you.

Clinical trials discovered that Semaglutide injections can help with weight loss in adults with a BMI of 30 or over.

 

Semaglutide is also available as a tablet, which may be a better choice for you.

Semaglutide is currently only available on the NHS for those with type 2 diabetes.

 

Those that want to take Semaglutide for weight management will need to pay privately.