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Ozempic: Silver Bullet or Devil’s Bargain?

There’s a new $6 billion-dollar industry. Its global market size is expected to increase to $100 billion within the decade. No, it’s not a fancy new app or a…

There’s a new $6 billion-dollar industry. Its global market size is expected to increase to $100 billion within the decade. No, it’s not a fancy new app or a revolutionary gadget: it’s weight-loss drugs.

Just a few years ago no one had even heard the word Ozempic. Almost overnight, the drug previously used to treat type 2 diabetes became a household name. Healthcare providers wrote more than 9 million prescriptions for Ozempic and similar drugs in the last three months of 2022 alone. By the end of the decade, 30 million people are predicted to be on it. For comparison, that means that Ozempic is on track to do as well as birth control pills and Prozac—a blockbuster medication. 

A little over a year ago we had a fiery debate on Honestly about these revolutionary weight-loss drugs and our cultural understanding of obesity. On one side of the debate, people saw Ozempic as the golden answer we’ve been searching for. After all, obesity is the second biggest cause of cancer. It causes diabetes, and it’s linked to dementia, heart disease, knee and hip problems, arthritis, and high blood pressure, which causes strokes. In short: when you crunch the numbers, drugs like Ozempic seem to be lifesaving.

On the other hand was another argument: Why are we putting millions of people on a powerful new drug when we don’t know the risks? Plus, isn’t this a solution that ignores why we gained so much weight in the first place? In other words: Ozempic is not a cure for obesity; it’s a Band-Aid.

A year later, all of those questions are still up for debate. Our guest today, journalist Johann Hari, has spent the last year trying to find answers, traveling the world investigating weight-loss drugs, and. . . taking them himself.

In his latest book, Magic Pill: The Extraordinary Benefits and Disturbing Risks of the New Weight-Loss Drugs, Johann investigates what we know and what we don’t know about how these drugs work, their risks and benefits, how our food system sets us up to fail, and how movements like “fat pride” and “healthy at any size” have completely altered the conversation.

So on today’s episode: How do these new drugs impact our brains, our guts, and our mood? What are the hidden risks? Are they really a permanent solution to the obesity crisis? Or are they merely a quick fix that do little to address the root causes of obesity? With over 70 percent of Americans today classified as overweight or obese and the average American adult weighing nearly 25 pounds more today than they did in 1960, how did we get here in the first place? And why aren’t we addressing that problem, too?

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