semaglutide weight loss videos flood TikTok, Instagram

  • Medical staff promote semaglutide injections for weight loss on social media.
  • Novo Nordisk, which makes the drug under the names Ozempic and Wegovy, said it had no role in the publications.
  • Patients are asking for information on medical weight loss, doctors told Insider.

The video is like many on TikTok, with a modern dance to a catchy beat. Except this is shot in a doctor’s office.

It opens with a doctor dancing to Soulja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag.” Then a woman can be heard, dancing and smiling next to the caption: “Lose 85 pounds and keep going.” The video, which has nearly 60,000 likes, is among a proliferation of posts on TikTok with the names of semaglutide weight loss drugs, including Wegovy and Ozempic.

The doctor in the video is Dr. Nelson Simmons of the Texas clinic, Personal MD Wellness & Aesthetics. He told Insider that he added the hashtags “#wegovy” and “#semaglutide” to the video to make it more visible on TikTok — even though he said the woman in the video isn’t taking those drugs. Videos tagged with these hashtags have more than 800 million views on TikTok.

“What drives the video to go viral is if you can generate some kind of conversation,” he told Insider.

Simmons’ practice is one of a growing number of clinics trying to ride the wave of interest in semaglutide injections by targeting potential patients through social media.

The publications vary: Some claim dramatic weight loss using the drugs, while others focus on side effects and potential treatment plans. Unlike official ads, partnerships, or promotions, TikTok posts receive little oversight from government agencies or medical boards.

Denmark-based pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk developed semaglutide injections, better known under the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved Ozempic to treat type 2 diabetes and Wegovy for “chronic weight management” in certain patients with other health conditions. But demand is now growing for general weight loss drugs, thanks in part to their rumored use by some celebrities.

Novo Nordisk told Insider that it has no role in the virality of TikTok drugs, saying that it is aware of the posts, but that it “is not currently working with any influencers to share their experience with Wegovy or Ozempic through their personal media of social network. channels.”

Insider reached out to 10 clinics across the U.S. that use social media to promote these drugs as weight-loss tools, and professionals from four — including a doctor, a surgeon and two nurses — responded to discuss their approach.

All four said the TikTok posts are driving an influx of patients to their clinics. A nurse, Jennifer Harris, said demand is so high she now refers patients to other clinics.

“I was giving people information and putting it out there, and it just blew up,” said Harris, who works at River Valley Obstetrics and Gynecology, a women’s health clinic in Russellville, Arkansas. “People want to know these things.”

Demand for semaglutide is exploding as people look for a new weight loss treatment

The health clinics’ TikTok posts capture the excitement and frenzy surrounding the treatment using popular songs like Meghan Trainor’s hit “Made You Look” and other viral audio clips.

Healthcare professionals who spoke to Insider said they are posting about semaglutide on TikTok because patients are demanding more information about the drug.

A post by Amy Oden, a nurse at Emerge Medical Spa in Tulsa, Oklahoma, touts Wegovy using a quote from the 2006 movie “The Devil Wears Prada.” The video ends with Oden opening a box of injections over the sound of Meryl Streep’s character saying “everyone wants this.”

Oden told Insider that her videos “pack quite a bit of new stuff” among patients of all ages. Many have told her they want to try semaglutide because other weight loss treatments have failed, she said. “They’re always told ‘diet and exercise,’ and they get discouraged,” Oden said.

Some semaglutide posts mimic a doctor’s visit. In a video by @alegrohealth, the name of a clinic in McKinney, Texas, a woman in a lab coat answers what she calls “the most common questions I get from people starting semaglutide.”

The McKinney Clinic did not respond to Insider’s request for comment. TikTok and Instagram did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment on the semaglutide videos.

A post from December shows Harris – the Arkansas nurse – nodding to a remix of 2 Unlimited’s ’90s hit ‘Get Ready for This’ along with the words: ‘We can start prescribing all his powers Wegovy again in January!!”

Harris has also posted videos discussing the side effects of semaglutide weight loss treatments, such as constipation and nausea.

“I want to make sure I’m giving accurate information,” he told Insider.

Doctors who spoke to Insider said they do not have a promotional agreement with Novo Nordisk. Harris said she interacts with a Novo Nordisk sales representative to get updated information about the company’s products, but said the representative has no role in her social media posts.

Dr. Giselle Prado-Wright, a plastic and weight loss surgeon, said she was initially skeptical of semaglutide treatments, but began posting about the drug on TikTok in response to patient demand.

“When people started asking about it, I resisted offering it because it’s injectable, it’s expensive,” Prado-Wright, who works at the Exert Clinic in Fort Myers, Florida, told Insider. He estimated that it can cost about $350 a month for cheaper versions of semaglutide that are mixed with other ingredients obtained from pharmacies. Monthly costs for Wegovy and Ozempic are $1,349 and $892, respectively.

“But in the last six months it’s taken off so much, even patients on my existing weight-loss drug program want to switch to injectables,” he said.

Doctors can prescribe drugs for off-label uses

In TikTok videos, Harris and several other doctors have discussed prescribing Ozempic for weight loss — a function that qualifies for off-label use, since Ozempic is not FDA-approved for that use.

The FDA prohibits companies and the influencers they work with from promoting their drugs for off-label uses. But doctors do not have these restrictions – as long as they are not paid by the pharmacist.

For its part, Novo Nordisk spokeswoman Allison Schneider told Insider that the company “does not promote, recommend or encourage the off-label use of our drugs.”

“We are committed to the highest ethical standards and compliance with applicable law in every aspect of our relationship with healthcare professionals,” said Schneider.

The professionals Insider spoke to also said they had no financial ties to Novo Nordisk or other pharmaceutical companies.

If they did, the FDA and Federal Trade Commission would require certain disclosures. The FTC requires influencers, including doctors, to disclose in posts whether they have financial deals with pharmacists whose products they promote.

Clinicians promoting certain drugs online can create the appearance of a conflict of interest, even if there is no mutual cooperation, said Kelly Michelson, a professor of bioethics and medical humanities at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“As clinicians, we’re kind of trained that avoiding conflicts of interest is part of what it means to be a professional clinician,” he said. “I would certainly be concerned that advertising or endorsing a particular treatment would start to cross that line of professionalism.”

Prado-Wright said she posts about weight loss drugs on TikTok because patients are curious about them.

“We do social media for fun, because it’s trending, because patients are asking,” he said. “I don’t necessarily share everything I know medically in every post, but when a patient comes in for the in-person visit, they get the full rundown.”

“I honestly think it’s a little overkill,” he said of weight-loss drugs. “It’s not that magic skinny shot.”

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