Study Finds Rapid Increase in Wegovy and Ozempic Use Among Adolescents and Young Adults

May 28, 2024
Females aged 12-25 saw the most rapid increases, but males in the same cohort also saw a substantial rise in dispensation.

A new study from Michigan Medicine shows that the use of weight loss drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic is “increasing rapidly in adolescents and young adults 12-25 years, especially females.”

Data collected from 2020 to 2023 from a national database that represents 92% of pharmacies showed a “594% increase in the monthly number of adolescents and young adults” using drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic, which are glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs).

In female adolescents aged 12-17, GLP-1 RA use increased 588%, compared with 504% of males in the same cohort. In female young adults aged 18-25, GLP-1 RA use increased a whopping 659% over that time span, compared with 481% for males aged 18-25.

Increase in these drugs is seen to have surged in 2021, when “semaglutide was approved for weight management in adults under the brand name Wegovy, and increased even further when Wegovy was approved for weight management in adolescents at the end of 2022.” Endocrinologists, family medicine physicians, and nurse practitioners were among the most likely prescribers of GLP-1 RAs to youth, “suggesting that these clinicians should be the focus of efforts to ensure safe and appropriate prescribing.”

Ozempic being dispensed to youth was also found to be on the rise, despite the fact that “Ozempic is not approved in children for type 2 diabetes or weight management.” This suggests that off-label use of Ozempic is increasing.

Joyce Lee, MD, MPH, the lead author of the paper, says that there are concerns regarding both the cost of GLP-1 RAs and, perhaps more pressingly, the “unknown effects of these drugs on growth and development in youth.”

About the Author

Matt MacKenzie | Associate Editor

Matt is Associate Editor for Healthcare Purchasing News.