There's no doubt that Ozempic has become a popular choice for those who want or need to lose weight. It's an appetite-suppressing drug that was originally meant for people with diabetes due to the fact that it lowers blood sugar levels and helps to regulate insulin—both crucial for those with the disease. But the off-label use of Ozempic for the purposes of weight loss has now grown to such an extent that it actually might be causing a drop in food sales at major retailers like Walmart.
The chain has been studying shopping behaviors among its customers, including those taking the drug.
"We definitely do see a slight change compared to the total population, we do see a slight pullback in [the] overall basket, " said John Furner, the CEO of Walmart U.S., in an interview with Bloomberg. "Just less units, slightly less calories."
At the same time, while those who use weight-loss medications may not be buying as much food, they "tend to spend more with us overall," chief financial officer John David Rainey said back in August, according to CNBC. Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon also noted that they expected to see more people coming into Walmart to shop for items other than food, saying, "The trends we see in general merchandise sales make us feel more optimistic about those categories in the back half of the year."
The news comes as Ozempic continues to face a fair share of controversy. For instance, there's the simple yet concerning fact that many have been abusing Ozempic for weight loss, which can lead to devastating side effects. As Dr. Janice Jin Hwang, chief of the division of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told The New York Times, "These drugs were not designed for normal-weight people who want to get down to be super thin."
For example, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who take Ozempic may experience severe stomach problems. Specifically, they had an increased risk of pancreatitis, gastroparesis, and bowel obstruction.
"Although rare, the incidence of these adverse events can happen. I've seen it happen," said the study's lead author Mohit Sodhi, a medical student at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine in Vancouver, via NBC News. Sodhi added, "People should know what they're getting into."
The popularity of Ozempic with those who don't have Type 2 diabetes has also caused a problem with supply making it difficult for those who do have the disease to find the medication they need. Dr. Disha Narang, an endocrinologist at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, told The Times, "It's been really, really terrible—patients don't know where to turn. We've been like hamsters in a wheel trying to figure this out."
Some have taken to getting Ozempic from the internet and other questionable sources. "If you're just getting this online, there's not going to be the same layers of protection," said Dr. Andrew Kraftson, a clinical associate professor in the division of Metabolism, Endocrinology, and Diabetes at Michigan Medicine. "I don't want to see people playing roulette with their health."