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Rybelsus and Weight Loss: What, Why and How

Tuesday 30 April 2024
6 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. What Is Rybelsus?

II. Rybelsus and Weight Loss

III. Potential Rybelsus Side Effects

IV. Rybelsus vs. Other Weight Loss Medications

V. How to Start on Rybelsus

Rybelsus is a medication prescribed to manage type 2 diabetes. Recently, it has also garnered attention for its potential benefits around weight control. Rybelsus and weight loss aren’t a totally new association—semaglutide, the medication’s active ingredient, helps regulate blood sugar and does help patients control their weight as well.

But is it possible for Rybelsus to be used strictly for weight loss purposes? It’s a question that’s becoming increasingly common. Answering it requires several important considerations around efficacy, safety, and long-term side effects.

In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between Rybelsus and weight loss as well as the potential for Rybelsus to be used solely for weight control purposes.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Rybelsus is prescribed primarily to control blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes.
  • Its mechanism of action also slows gastric emptying and curbs hunger, helping with weight loss.
  • Research studies have confirmed Rybelsus’ weight loss benefits.
  • Rybelsus is more commonly being prescribed off-label for weight loss, but this must be done in partnership with a trusted healthcare provider.

What Is Rybelsus?

Rybelsus is an oral medication that primarily helps with blood sugar management in adults with type 2 diabetes. Its active ingredient, semaglutide, is also used in other formats like injections under different brand names for similar purposes.

Semaglutide belongs to a class of drugs known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, which play a crucial role in diabetes management by mimicking an incretin hormone that helps regulate blood sugar.

Rybelsus works by stimulating the release of insulin—a hormone that lowers blood sugar—from the pancreas in a glucose-dependent manner. This means it enhances the body’s natural insulin release only when blood sugar levels are high, minimizing the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Additionally, Rybelsus slows down gastric emptying—the rate at which food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine. This slower gastric emptying helps to control appetite and can contribute to weight loss by making individuals feel fuller for longer periods, thus reducing overall caloric intake.


Graphic shows how Rybelsus stimulates insulin secretion, decreases glucose release, and slows gastric emptying to promote weight loss


Rybelsus and Weight Loss

Several clinical trials have explored the weight loss potential of semaglutide, the core component of Rybelsus. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that participants taking semaglutide experienced considerably more weight loss compared to those on a placebo (5-15%). [2]

While this evidence is promising, Rybelsus is not yet approved specifically for weight management or to support weight loss efforts. Healthcare providers may prescribe Rybelsus off-label for weight loss, particularly in patients with type 2 diabetes who also need to lose weight. However, it is important for patients to discuss this with their healthcare provider to ensure that it fits with their overall health management plan.

Potential Rybelsus Side Effects

Like other GLP-1 receptor agonists, Rybelsus can cause a range of side effects. Gastrointestinal symptoms are the most prevalent. These symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, and decreased appetite. They’re typically most noticeable when a patient is beginning the medication or after a dosage increase. Symptoms often decrease over time as the body adjusts to the treatment.

While most side effects of Rybelsus are manageable, there are some more serious, long-term side effects that patients should monitor:

  • Pancreatitis: Severe abdominal pain that may radiate to the back, nausea, vomiting, and a rapid pulse can indicate pancreatitis. This condition requires immediate medical attention.
  • Renal Impairment: In some cases, Rybelsus can affect kidney function, indicated by changes in urine output, swelling in the feet or ankles, and fatigue.
  • Severe Hypoglycemia: Although not common, severe hypoglycemia can occur, especially when Rybelsus is combined with other diabetes medications. Symptoms include confusion, sweating, extreme weakness, and palpitations.
  • Thyroid Tumors: Although rare, GLP-1 receptor agonists have been linked to an increased risk of thyroid C-cell tumors in animal studies. Any swelling in the neck, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, or persistent hoarseness should be evaluated.

It’s crucial to seek immediate medical help if experiencing signs of severe side effects such as persistent severe abdominal pain, symptoms of dehydration (from prolonged vomiting or diarrhea), or if you notice any signs of thyroid issues.

Additionally, any sudden changes in mood or behavior, signs of jaundice (such as yellowing of the skin or eyes), or unusual bleeding or bruising should prompt a visit to the healthcare provider. Patients should also consult their doctor if the common side effects become particularly bothersome or do not go away after a few weeks of treatment, as this may require a dosage adjustment or medication change.

Understanding potential Rybelsus side effects helps patients and providers manage treatment effectively and ensure that any serious concerns are addressed promptly.

Rybelsus vs. Other Weight Loss Medications

Rybelsus is one of several options available for weight management, each with distinct mechanisms and outcomes. It’s important to consider all options and discuss them with your healthcare provider in order to choose the best medication for your needs.

Here are some other top weight loss medications on the market:

  • Phentermine/Topiramate (Qsymia) and Orlistat (Xenical) are more directly focused on weight loss. Qsymia combines an appetite suppressant with a drug that reduces appetite and cravings, whereas Orlistat reduces the amount of fat absorbed by the body. Rybelsus offers a different approach by affecting insulin secretion and delaying gastric emptying.
  • Saxenda and Ozempic are other GLP-1 receptor agonists specifically approved for weight loss, and share a similar mechanism to Rybelsus but are administered via injection.

When compared to these medications, Rybelsus is the only one that’s both orally administered and has the dual benefit of glucose and weight control, which is why it’s preferred for this purpose by many who have type 2 diabetes. That said, it may not be as necessary or effective for those solely seeking weight loss and who don’t have a diabetes diagnosis.

How to Start on Rybelsus

Starting on Rybelsus begins with a consultation with your healthcare provider. Because Rybelsus is primarily prescribed for type 2 diabetes, your doctor will evaluate your medical history, current health condition, and overall treatment goals to determine if Rybelsus is suitable for you.

If you are also interested in the weight loss benefits of Rybelsus, discuss these aspects with your doctor, as they may consider your weight management needs alongside your diabetes treatment.

Once prescribed, regular follow-up appointments are crucial. Your doctor will monitor your response to the medication, adjust your dosages if necessary, and check for side effects. Blood sugar levels, kidney function, and other health indicators should be regularly assessed to ensure safe and effective Rybelsus use.

To get the most out of Rybelsus, adhere strictly to the prescribed regimen. Combine the medication with lifestyle modifications such as a healthy diet and regular physical activity to enhance its effectiveness in managing blood sugar and supporting weight loss. Keep a consistent routine with your medication timing to maintain stable blood levels and effectiveness.

Understanding and following these steps can help you start Rybelsus safely and make the most of its benefits under the guidance of your healthcare provider.

If you’re looking to access your Rybelsus medication safely, affordably, and with the convenience of home delivery, My Drug Center can help. Learn more here about how we can help you save up to 80% on your next prescription.

DISCLAIMER: The information in the article is not meant to be used for treatment or diagnosis. It is designed for general awareness and for information purposes only. Always consult a medical professional for your specific healthcare needs.