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What Is Semaglutide

Medically reviewed by

Prof Rishi Singhal MBBS, MRCS, FRCS, MD


Semaglutide is a prescription medication used for Type 2 diabetes and weight management. It mimics the GLP-1 hormone, aiding blood glucose control and weight loss. It’s FDA-approved for both conditions but requires a private prescription for weight loss in the UK. Costs vary depending on dosage and source. Common side effects include nausea and abdominal discomfort.

Semaglutide is a prescription medication used as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes, as it mimics the GLP-1 hormone released in the gut after eating. GLP-1 increases the release of insulin, leading to a decrease in blood glucose. As semaglutide encourages lower levels of ghrelin – known as the “hunger hormone” – in the body, it increases satiety which means hunger is diminished. Also, due to its ability to stimulate insulin production and block glucagon release from pancreatic alpha cells, glucose levels return to normal. The effect accounts for improved blood sugar control and weight loss. In 2021, the FDA approved semaglutide treatment for chronic weight management, the first since 2014.

Who can have Semaglutide?

It is typically prescribed for adults between the ages of 18 and 75, with either a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more or a BMI of 27 and a medical condition caused by excess weight such as high blood pressure and high risk of heart disease. Patients who have ever had an allergic reaction to the ingredients should not use semaglutide, nor should those with a family history of thyroid cancer (including medullary thyroid carcinoma). You should also tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had diabetes-induced eye problems, stomach disorders or kidney disease.

How is Semaglutide administered?

Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus are all brand names for the active ingredient Semaglutide, although not all are registered as weight loss drugs. Each drug has a different dose and medication delivery; Ozempic requires a weekly subcutaneous injection with a maximum dose of 1.0mg, Rybelsus is a daily tablet with a dose of around 7mg and Wegovy is also a weekly injection but with a dose of 2.4mg. The once-weekly injection should be administered subcutaneously, (under the skin) typically injected into the stomach, thigh, or upper arm. You will be provided with detailed instructions on how to inject, and you should follow the regular dosing schedule carefully. You should also rotate the injection site each week to avoid irritation or damage to the skin. You can also take a once-daily tablet that should be taken on an empty stomach. You are advised to wait 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything after taking the tablet.

How effective is Semaglutide?

Clinical study has shown that Semaglutide is highly effective in managing blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that Semaglutide reduced HbA1c levels (a measure of average blood sugar levels over time) by up to 1.5% compared to placebo. Semaglutide was also shown to be more effective than other GLP-1 receptor agonists, such as exenatide and liraglutide.

In addition to its blood sugar-lowering effects, Semaglutide has also been shown to have other health benefits. For example, a study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology found that Semaglutide reduced the risk of cardiovascular events (such as heart attack and stroke) by up to 26% compared to a placebo. Semaglutide has also been shown to promote weight loss, which is beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes who are overweight or obese.

Is Semaglutide available in the UK?

Yes, Semaglutide is available in the UK. It was approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2018 and has since been prescribed to thousands of patients nationwide. However, it is essential to note that Semaglutide is only available on prescription and can only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. Currently, weekly semaglutide injections are available on the NHS, but only for patients with type 2 diabetes. To use semaglutiude as a treatment for weight loss you will need to pay privately for a prescription.

Are there any side effects?

The side effects of semaglutide at a higher dose for weight loss are typically mild and, for the most part, manageable. The most common side effects reported in the STEP trials were nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and constipation. These symptoms usually occurred early on in the treatment stage but generally waned over time as patients’ bodies adjusted to the drug’s effects. Only rarely did they reach a point where patients had to discontinue taking semaglutide. Always remember to inform your healthcare provider with a list of allergies and medical history to prevent any serious side effects. If you do experience any side effects that don’t require urgent medical attention always contact patient support for any medical advice or tips on coping with these effects.

How much does Semaglutide cost in the UK?

The cost of Semaglutide in the UK varies depending on the dose and the pharmacy where it is purchased. As it is a prescription medication, the cost may also be covered by the National Health Service (NHS) if the patient meets certain criteria. However, if Semaglutide is not covered by the NHS, you will need a private prescription. At Weight Loss Clinic, our monthly weight loss program starts at £249 per month and includes a weekly GLP-1 agonist injection Or daily Tablet.