Miracle celebrity weight loss jab semaglutide causes ‘increase in suicidal thoughts’, NHS watchdog reveals
- Cases of suicidal thoughts or self-harm have quadrupled, regulators fear
- Drugs such as Ozempic or Wegovy are described as a ‘game-changer’
The number of people plagued by thoughts of suicide or self-harm while taking a popular weight-loss jab has quadrupled in the past two months, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The drug, sold as Ozempic or Wegovy, treats diabetes, but studies have shown it to be highly effective in tackling obesity.
In June, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak branded the drug ‘a game-changer’ and announced a pilot project that would see GPs offer the weekly jab to obese patients.
However, in July, health authorities announced a review of the drug, which contains the active ingredient semaglutide, among other similar weight-loss drugs, after reports of patients having suicidal thoughts.
The number of people plagued by thoughts of suicide or self-harm during a popular weight-loss jab has quadrupled in the past two months, The Mail on Sunday can reveal
Drugs such as Ozempic or Wegovy contain semaglutide, which regulators fear could have an unexpected side effect
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the review was launched after it received five reports of semaglutide patients experiencing suicidal or self-harm thoughts after taking the drug.
Since 2010, there have also been twelve reports of these side effects in patients taking a similar drug called liraglutide.
Now the MHRA has revealed that the number of reports of patients experiencing suicidal or self-harm thoughts has risen to 23 in just two months. The MHRA has also received a further six reports relating to liraglutide.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received 265 reports of suicidal thoughts or behavior in patients taking these types of weight-loss drugs since 2010 — 36 of which describe a death by suicide or suspected suicide.
The MHRA has not revealed how many deaths or suspected deaths there have been in Britain.
Experts argue that the possible link between the use of these medications and suicidal thoughts is likely due to the underlying mental health problems that cause many people to become obese.
‘This increase in reports of suicidal or self-harming thoughts is no surprise,’ says Prof David Strain, a diabetes expert at the University of Exeter Medical School.
‘These drugs suppress the desire to eat, meaning you take away the pleasure that obese patients relied on to stave off their depression. It is logical that when you do that, you will see previously suppressed thoughts of suicide come to the surface.’
Semaglutide is part of a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, the first of which were developed a decade ago as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. These medications mimic the GLP-1 hormone in the intestines that helps release insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. But scientists also found that they suppressed appetite, leading to weight loss. Studies have shown that semaglutide obese patients lost about ten percent of their weight and maintained it while continuing to take the drug.
Semaglutide has been offered in Britain since 2019 to help diabetics. Although NHS regulators approved it as a weight-loss treatment in March, it has not yet been rolled out for this purpose due to supply problems caused by the huge hype surrounding the drug. since its use among celebrities and models became common knowledge.
Experts fear that the increase in the number of patients with suicidal thoughts may be linked to the increase in the number of people buying the drugs online without consulting a doctor.
“Semaglutide is really effective, but you cannot completely solve obesity by throwing drugs at it,” says Prof. Strain. ‘Obesity patients need psychological support. Online companies can’t offer that.’
Research shows that the drug is safe, although side effects such as stomach pain and nausea have often been reported.
A spokesperson for Novo Nordisk, the Danish developer of Wegovy, said the “large clinical trial programs” and monitoring of the drug since its introduction had “not shown a causal link between semaglutide and suicidal and self-harm thoughts.”