Apr 18, 2024 - Health

Ozempic's latest reported side effect: pregnancy

Photo illustration of an Ozempic box on a pharmacy counter

Photo illustration: Mario Tama/Getty Images

An increasing number of women are reporting unplanned pregnancies — even among those who've struggled with fertility — while taking popular anti-obesity and diabetes drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic.

Why it matters: As reports of the phenomenon have trickled out across social media, doctors are still trying to figure out what effect, if any, the class of drugs known as GLP-1 agonists may have on fertility.

The big picture: Some doctors have begun prescribing the drugs off-label for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that is a leading causes of infertility, per Bloomberg.

  • "It's very exciting, but it's a bit scary because we're moving forward without all the data," Melanie Cree, director of the PCOS clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado, told Bloomberg.
  • It's thought that weight loss triggered by the drugs could correct hormonal imbalances, and that some GLP-1s may make birth control pills less effective, per USA Today.
  • "The correlation between weight loss and fertility is well known, so it's likely the main driver in the 'Ozempic baby' boom we're suddenly seeing," said Angela Fitch, president of the Obesity Medicine Association, in an email to Axios.

Between the lines: It's the latest in a growing list of potential side effects — both positive and negative — patients and physicians have reported as GLP-1 drugs have taken off in the past couple of years.

  • The prescribing label for Eli Lilly's anti-obesity drug Zepbound carries a warning that patients taking birth control pills should use a backup method like condoms and that pregnant patients should stop taking the drug.
  • Novo Nordisk said it has limited data because patients who were pregnant or intended to become pregnant were excluded from clinical trials. It's now studying the impact of Wegovy on pregnant patients.
  • Fitch said doctors are also recommending that patients consider long-acting reversible contraception methods, such as IUDs, that don't appear to be affected by GLP-1s.

Editor's note: This story was updated with information from Novo Nordisk.

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