Celebrating the winter holidays for many means buying presents, arranging travel and planning hefty menus for meals with loved ones. However, this year those preparations may include skipping medications popularly used to facilitate weight loss.
Reasons ranging from wanting to consume more holiday food without post-meal discomfort to aiming to save money have prompted some to look to hold off on doses in the lead-up to the festivities, according to Good Morning America and other media reports.
Still, individuals contemplating skipping their weight loss drugs need to be careful when resuming them afterwards, an expert told FOX Business.
Gingerbread Christmas cookies (Photo credit Essene Hernandez/Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Common types of drugs used for weight loss include Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro. The last contains tirzepatide, while the other two are semaglutide.
Endobariatric physician and True You Weight Loss Associate Research Director Dr. Dan Maselli told FOX Business that such reasons are "totally understandable." Some of his patients have wanted to interrupt their dosage schedule to avoid receiving stigma-driven judgment from loved ones who didn’t know they were taking such medication, he added.
Novo Nordisk A/S Ozempic brand semaglutide medication Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Individuals are not "going to harm themselves in the immediate future by stopping the medication" they use for weight loss, Maselli said. While skipping may lead to feelings of hunger, drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro do not bring on a withdrawal phenomenon, he noted.
It is the resumption of the medication where people need to be careful, according to Maselli.
"These medications are really meant to be taken long-term and consistently, and one of the issues that can arise if we miss a dose, or really if we miss two to three doses, is that our body can lose how well acclimated it has become to those medications, in particular to the gastrointestinal side effects of those medications," Maselli said. "It may be unwise and, in extreme circumstances, unsafe to start the medication back at the dose you were at."
Rachel Graham holds a Mounjaro injectible pen at her home in Carlsbad, California, on Nov. 30, 2022. ( Sandy Huffaker for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
When using Ozempic, Mounjaro and other similar drugs for weight loss, doctors and patients have to start at a low dosage and slowly increase it over time, he explained. That process can take 20 weeks.
"So if you were at that maximum dose – or even above like the first two doses of this medication – and you stop this medication for two or three weeks, and then you try to start back on that same dose, you can make yourself really uncomfortable," he said.
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, cramping and heartburn are among the symptoms a person could experience.
Maselli said that people who have missed or skipped doses should get in touch with their prescribing doctor instead of just starting back up again, because their doctor may need to lower their dose. In some cases, they could need to start from square one, depending on how long it has been.
Novo Nordisk A/S Wegovy brand semaglutide medication Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
People deciding to temporarily stop taking the drugs during the holidays comes after more and more people have looked to Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro for weight-loss help.
Novo Nordisk, which produces Ozempic and Wegovy, has seen quite a boost amid the phenomenon, with its stock price having climbed nearly 51% since the start of 2023. Shares of the company behind Mounjaro, Eli Lilly, have gone up over 56%.
The S&P 500, meanwhile, has posted a nearly 25% increase this year.