Johann Hari discovered 12 'disturbing' risks to using Ozempic. He's still using it.

Johann Hari has opened up about his personal experience of using the drug Ozempic

Hari has been taking the drug for the past year, and says it has changed his life. For better and for worse.

Speaking on Mamamia's No Filter, Hari says he remembers the exact night he first heard about a drug designed for people with type 2 diabetes being used by non-diabetics wishing to lose weight.

"It was the winter of 2022, and I went to the party thrown by an Oscar-winning actor. I'd gained a lot of weight during COVID, and like lots of people, I felt a little bit self conscious about it. When I arrived at the party everyone was gaunt," he says. 

"I bumped into a friend of mine on the dance floor. And I said to her, 'Well, I guess everyone really did take up Pilates during lockdown.' And she laughed and said, 'Well, you know, this isn't Pilates, right?'"

That's when Hari learned about Ozempic.

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Video via YouTube.

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In late 2022, Hari decided to try Ozempic, and accessed it via a doctor in the private health system — both in the UK and US, where he splits his time. He was surprised, and concerned, by how easy it was for him to personally access the drug. This is of course not the case for everyone, with many who have type 2 diabetes struggling to get regular access to their prescriptions. 

Despite how simple it was to get his hands on it, Hari was barely informed about the risks associated.

"The doctor said I would feel a bit nauseous and that was about it. The doctor didn't ask any questions about my health. I later learned from interviewing the leading experts all over the world that there are 12 really significant risks."

Gastrointestinal disorders are the most common Ozempic side effects reported to the United States Food and Drug Administration. This includes but is not limited to nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. There is also the impact of reduced essential muscle mass, and the risk of malnutrition. 

On a perhaps more trivial level, the term 'Ozempic face' has gone viral online. A common side effect of the medication is that it can cause sagging and ageing of facial skin.

Then there are the reported risks that are still being scientifically examined.


Some experts are worried about the effects on pregnant women, others say there is a small risk of developing pancreatitis, as well as a condition called 'stomach paralysis'.

Hari also spoke with Jean-Luc Faillie, a professor of medical pharmacology and toxicology at the University Hospital of Montpellier. Professor Faillie reported that for all the patients with type 2 diabetes who had taken these drugs, they had an increased risk of about 50 to 75 per cent of developing thyroid cancer

"It doesn't mean that if you take the drug, you have a 50 to 75 per cent chance of developing thyroid cancer the Professor explained to me. He said it means that if you take this drug, your chances of developing thyroid cancer would be 50 to 75 per cent higher than if you had not taken it."

Mental health complications associated with the drug are also being researched, after some users claimed it "exacerbated their anxiety and depression". 

It would be remiss to ignore the impact of such a huge demand for this drug. Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration has listed Ozempic on its medicine shortage reports database with a predicted date of 31 December 2024 before any change is likely to occur in its "limited availability" due to "unexpected increase in consumer demand". It means many type 2 diabetics cannot access their medication. 

The demand has also meant some people are buying knock-off brands, claims Hari, or sourcing the medication in an illegal manner which puts their health at risk.


But perhaps the biggest risk of the 12 significant risks are "the unknowns", with research into long-term use of the drug in its infancy. 

Ultimately, Hari has decided to continue using this medication, saying that personally, the benefits still outweigh the risks.

Nevertheless, he has been shocked by the cultural impact of the drug.

"I was FaceTiming with my niece and she's always been a healthy 'normal' weight. She noticed how much weight I had lost, and she was looking down at her own body with sort of contempt and she said, 'Well you can get me some Ozempic.' I thought she was joking, but then I realised she was being serious. And I thought, 'Oh sh*t, what have I done?'

"These drugs leech out so much of the shame and the complexity of how we feel about our own bodies. I feel a great responsibility as the stakes are really high. This stuff really affects people's lives and soon these drugs are going to transform our culture. We're going to learn lots more about these drugs in the next few years."

You can listen to the full conversation between Johann Hari and Mia Freedman on No Filter now

Feature Image: Instagram @johann.hari.

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