'I take diabetes medication for weight loss. Here's what I want you to know.'

Listen to this story being read by Erin Docherty, here.

Whether you've read about it, seen it on social media, or know someone who takes it, chances are you've heard about people using Ozempic, a diabetes medication, for weight loss

The drug is a weekly injectable prescription medication currently subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for type 2 diabetes in Australia.

And while there are studies that suggest this medication can be an effective solution for weight management, it's currently classified as 'off-label use'.

Watch: Here's what you need to know about diabetes. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

However, medical experts say it can have a place in this area for those who meet specific criteria - that is, patients who are suffering from complications of obesity or being overweight, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

So, how hard is it to access the drug for off-label use? And what is involved in taking diabetes medication for weight management?

Mamamia spoke with 40-year-old Rachel*, who started taking Ozempic last year.

Rachel is not diabetic. But other medications she takes for chronic back pain (after years of repeat surgeries) and mobility issues have caused her to gain weight, impacting her quality of life.


"A friend of mine told me about it in 2021," she shares. "She told me how she had lost five kilos within the first couple of weeks." 

"I have been struggling since 2016 to lose the weight I put on post back surgery and after taking endless medications. I ended up at 110kgs at one point."

"Going from running and swim training and being active to struggling to walk and putting on weight - I got pretty depressed and hated having my picture taken."

So, Rachel went to her local GP to enquire about taking the drug. 

"I also wanted to see if it would help with my back pain and constant chronic pain," she said.

Rachel started using the drug as a once-a-week injection around February 2022.

"It was easy to get the injection - I spoke to my GP about it, and she understood my struggles with chronic pain and with being overweight. She told me to start on a small dose then after a month, see how it progresses and increase the dosage if I wanted to."

However, in May last year there was a nationwide shortage of the essential drug, sparking debate over its use for weight loss. 

Mamamia investigated the increase in consumer demand, speaking with diabetics about their experience (you can read the full article here).

Read more: People are using diabetes medication for weight loss. It's a double-edged sword.


During that time, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) urged health professionals to only prescribe and dispense the treatment for its approved use - to manage type 2 diabetes. 

Meaning? Those using the medication for weight loss would not have their prescription filled.

Rachel said, "My first injection was easy to get (pre-shortage). I paid $100 for a one-month supply. The price of pens ranges from $100 to $150, depending on which pharmacy you get them from.

"In May 2022, I wasn’t able to refill my script due to the shortage, and [saw] the health directive that only PBS diabetic scripts were able to access it when it was in stock.

"I was able to get it again in July 2022 - my local pharmacy puts one aside for me."

So, just how effective is the drug? 

When it comes to Rachel's personal experience, she describes the medication as a "life saver".

"I love it. I noticed the weight loss within the first week - my face didn’t seem so full and I have gone down a few dress sizes. Slowly my confidence is coming back."

The injections are used once weekly, placed in the thigh, abdomen, or upper arm - usually on the same day and the same time by the user. When you stop taking the medication, the weight can often come back.

"My first injection gave me headaches and nausea. I was injecting it into my stomach, and a friend told me to try injecting it into my thigh. Since then I haven’t had any side effects."

While there is no current data regarding the use of the drug for weight loss in Australia, you likely know someone who is using it. 


The recent shortage speaks volumes. For patients like Rachel, this medication can be life-altering - significantly changing health outcomes, such as heart disease and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

"I have around four friends who are using it," she shared.

"One was told she shouldn’t use it as there are people who have diabetes who need it. She replied nicely, 'I’ve had heart surgery and now a pacemaker. I have my own reasons for needing it'." 

"Another male friend of mine has lost over 20kgs on it," she adds.

"I follow a Facebook group where people post their experiences and before and after photos - their results are amazing and the stories of how they have gotten their lives back are incredible."

However, it's important to note that diabetes medication is not a quick-fix solution. As Rachel goes on to say, "It’s not a miracle cure for weight loss." 

"I have reduced my alcohol intake, I now eat smaller meals and I am trying to keep moving as much as I can. I can’t wait to get to my goal weight and go on a shopping spree."

"I would encourage people not to judge others - we all have our own reasons and battles. Many are using it as they have a high chance of developing diabetes, while some of us struggle to function “normally”, and due to other health reasons, need a little bit of help."

*Name changed for privacy.

Feature image: Getty