The Real Cost of Buying Ozempic Online, and How To Do It Safely

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The Black Friday-style run on Ozempic and Mounjaro prescriptions started in 2021 when wildfire word-of-mouth of the drugs’ effectiveness combined with pandemic-related supply issues, and ramped up in 2022 with Mounjaro’s FDA approval for use with type 2 diabetes. Since then, their popularity has only grown in size, creating both a lucrative opportunity for their big pharma makers and actual weight loss for patients. If supplies can keep up, that is.

The rich are doing what the rich do and slipping to the front of the line with their deep pockets that can afford the high sticker prices. A 30-day supply of the once-a-week injectable drugs run $1,000 and $1,200 for those without morally flexible primary care physicians or a clear and undeniable (from an insurer’s perspective) medical need.

The demand is outrageous. It’s Tickle-Me-Elmo to the power of body dysmorphia. While the drugs were in short supply earlier this year due to the rush, eager prospective patients will be happy to know that both drugs have recently been replenished by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lily.

Prescriptions for semaglutide, also known as Ozempic or Wegovy, and tirzepatide, also known as Mounjaro, have increased 2,082% in the last three years with more than 5 million prescriptions written in 2022, a 259% increase from 2021 alone. Given that 8,000 people per month are searching for “how to get Ozempic for weight loss,” up 2,531% from 2022, there’s little sign of the trend slowing down.

Only a fourth of prescriptions are written for patients without diabetes. And, because these drugs are new and have decade-long patents, generics for the drugs won’t be available for years.

Ozempic and Mounjaro are arriving at an interesting moment in the history of American prescriptions. Brands like Hims and Hers, riding the coattails of the erectile dysfunction Ro, which showed turgid pandemic growth, are leveraging the convenience of telehealth and extended pandemic-related telehealth flexibilities to squeeze specialist doctors out of the prescription process. Questionnaires full of obviously leading queries lead from sub-5 minute conversations with “providers” into an email prescription, sometimes within the same hour, and into fulfillment services and ops. Prescription bottles fly through the mail.

Prescriptions for Ozempic and Mounjaro are available online through telehealth providers like PlushCare and Push Health, which charge between $30-$129 for a first-time chat with a doctor, depending on insurance coverage as well as Sequence, a weight loss-specific platform recently acquired by Weight Watchers, that can connect patients with providers who can prescribe the drugs.

Ro‘s offerings under their $99/month membership fee now include prescriptions for Wegovy, although their vetting process is a bit more intensive than other platforms. After a lengthy questionnaire and an at-home metabolic test that’s used to gauge whether the drug is right for each patient, they have a waiting period of 3-6 weeks minimum after a patient chats with a provider.

These telehealth fees don’t include the cost of the actual medicine, of course.

ro weightloss

Dr. Sue Decotiis, who treats obese patients in Manhattan, has seen an influx of patients who’ve tried and failed at acquiring Ozempic online. One patient paid $1500 upfront to a doctor who claimed they could provide the goods then offered a lesser weight loss medication she could’ve sourced from any doctor with her insurance. Her accounts emphasize the importance of working with accredited telehealth agencies like the ones above, and even then proceeding with cautious optimism.

“These companies can’t get their hands on this medication. You can’t stockpile this medication. No one can,” explains Dr. Decotiis. “Even if they want to serve the patients, they won’t be able to get it. So they’re going to take the patients’ money and put them on a lesser medication…. I can’t call Duane Reade and CVS and call in prescriptions for unnamed patients.”

Presumably, this is why Novo Nordisk is actively distancing itself from the companies most capable of distributing its products at scale.

“Some weight loss clinics, online pharmacies, “telehealth” and other companies claim to have availability of compounded “semaglutide” products, including products that purport to offer “semaglutide” in combination with other ingredients,” Novo Nordisk explained in a statement to SPY. “These compounded products do not have the same safety, quality, and effectiveness assurances as FDA-approved drugs, and may expose patients to potentially serious health risks.”

Ro offers Plenity as an alternative medication to patients who don’t qualify for Ozempic, a daily pill taken before a meal to curb appetite that was FDA-approved for weight loss in 2019. It’s not as effective, though, with results tapping out at 10% body weight loss, or around 22 pounds, on average.

For the subset of patients seeking these drugs overseas or in Canada, it’s $250 for a month’s worth of this medication, but dosing and administering can become an issue. It is possible to get the drug by filling prescriptions at Canadian pharmacies, but difficult to figure out how much to take. Dr. Salas-Whalen, an endocrinologist and obesity specialist in New York, now has patients who arrive at her clinic on the Upper East Side with the drug, but without a notion of how to take it.

“But I’m supervising the drug, I’m supervising the dosing,” says. Dr. Salas-Whalen. “I’m supervising the side effects. As long as it’s under supervision, it’s okay.”

To date, no one has died from taking either of these drugs. But the reported side effects can be bad. Dr. Andrew Kraftson, an endocrinologist and Director of the Weight Navigation Program at the University of Michigan described a patient who had explosive diarrhea for three days and ended up being hospitalized with an acute kidney injury.

“Potassium was completely out of whack,” Dr. Kraftson says. “Other medications had to be adjusted. Was she totally appropriate to go on the medication? Yes. Was she understanding that there were risks? Yes, but still bad things can happen.”

Nausea, vomiting, and dehydration are more common side and many patients “suffer” from what has been dubbed “Ozempic Face,” apparent aging that’s driven by the rapid loss of body fat.

Dr. Decotiis and Dr. Salas-Whalen both emphasize their use of a body composition scale to track patients’ weight loss throughout treatment and make sure the drugs are actually working as they should. The concern here, according to the providers, is rapid loss of muscle rather than fat.

A body composition scale measures the body’s fat and muscle percentages rather than just weight in pounds, making it easier to tell that Ozempic is burning away what it’s supposed to. These scales can be purchased on Amazon and used at home, if folks are truly looking to DIY the whole process.

How to Get Ozempic for Weight Loss: Telehealth Portals, Doctor Tips

Omron Body Composition Monitor With Scale

This body composition scale is designed for at-home usage and measures seven different fitness factors including body fat percentage, BMI, skeletal muscle tissue, visceral fat, resting metabolism, body age and weight. It measures body fat percentage using a bioelectrical impedance method, commonly used by personal trainers at gyms and doctors’ offices.

Without this, both doctors described, patients can gain the weight right back or develop what’s called “sarcopenic obesity” also dubbed “skinny fat” obesity where a body has a high fat percentage and a low percentage of muscle mass.

Dr. Decotiis compares Ozempic and Mounjaro favorably to appetite suppressants. They do the same thing in the same way that Aaron Judge and the best kid on a Little League team both hit.

“I tell my patients when they start this drug, especially the tirzepitide because I prefer it over the semaglutide, I say ‘you’re gonna feel like you’ve had Thanksgiving dinner every single day,” said Dr. Decotiis. “You feel so sated, and it’s a good feeling because you don’t want for anything.”

The irony is, of course, that everyone wants for something. Hunger is just one urge.

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