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What happens when you stop taking Wegovy?
Medically Reviewed by Felix Gussone, MD, Ro; Written by Rachel Honeyman
Last updated: Mar 28, 2023
7 min read
You were bitten by the bug and decided to give Wegovy a try after struggling to lose weight with lifestyle changes alone. Maybe you saw great results, as most people who take this injectable weight loss drug do (one clinical trial showed over 86% of participants lost at least 5% of their body weight after 16 months). But, for one reason or another, you’d like to stop taking Wegovy.
What happens when you stop taking Wegovy? Will you gain back all the weight you lost? If you’re looking to stop Wegovy because of side effects, how quickly can you expect those to dissipate after stopping?
Keep reading to find out.
What is Wegovy?
Wegovy (semaglutide) is an injectable drug that’s approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help with weight loss (when combined with a healthy diet and regular physical activity), in the following :
People with obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher
People with excess weight (BMI over 27), who also have a weight-related health condition, like diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease
You inject Wegovy (2.4mg of semaglutide) once a week subcutaneously (meaning, it’s injected just under the skin) with a tiny 4mm (1/8 Inch) needle hidden inside a pen. Even for people who are squeamish about needles, these injections are usually manageable and relatively painless.
Wegovy is a type of drug called a GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) receptor agonist. Most GLP-1 agonists are only FDA-approved as diabetes medications, but many are used off-label to help with weight loss. Wegovy is the first in this class of drugs to get FDA approval for weight loss.
Through a complex cascade of events, semaglutide (the active ingredient in Wegovy) slows down the digestive process, lowering appetite and weight loss. It does that by mimicking your body’s natural hormones, helping you feel fuller faster and for longer. It also controls blood sugar and is approved to manage diabetes under a different brand name, Ozempic.
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What happens when you stop Wegovy?
Wegovy is a drug that’s meant to be taken long-term. This is because obesity is a chronic disease that often needs ongoing treatment with medications, just like other medical conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes
Still, some people may choose to stop Wegovy for a number of reasons. A small percentage of people find the side effects intolerable, or cost may be an issue. For some people, they just don’t want to be on a long-term medication. So, what happens if you stop?
When you stop taking Wegovy, you’ll stop getting any positive or negative effects you may have gotten from the drug. That means you’ll get relief from any side effects you may have been experiencing, but you’ll also stop losing weight (and will likely regain at least some of the weight you’ve lost).
Weight gain after stopping Wegovy
Most people do regain weight after stopping Wegovy. One study looked at people a year after stopping semaglutide and lifestyle intervention, which consisted of diet counselling every 4 weeks and 150 minutes of physical activity per week. The study showed they regained two-thirds of the weight they’d lost on the drug.
Some people are surprised to hear that they’ll need to stay on Wegovy long-term to keep seeing its weight loss benefits. It’s actually not so different, though, than any other weight loss intervention.
Think about anyone you know who’s successfully lost weight through a healthy diet and exercise regimen. As long as they continue those efforts, their weight loss and weight management results will remain steady. If they go back to a sedentary lifestyle and stop watching what they eat, they’ll regain that weight pretty quickly.
Wegovy is no different. It doesn’t permanently change your anatomy, like some weight loss surgeries do, so its effects only continue for as long as you keep taking it.
So, if you lost weight on Wegovy and stop taking it, you’ll likely see some of that weight come back. There are some things you can do that may curb some of this, though.
Keeping weight off after Wegovy
If you need to stop Wegovy for any reason, you’re probably wondering what you can do to prevent all the weight you lost from coming back. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix that can fully prevent this, but you have some options.
Consider another medication
If Wegovy isn’t the right medication to help you reach your weight loss goals for any reason, your provider can make other recommendations. While Wegovy is the only GLP-1 approved for weight loss, there are several other FDA-approved weight loss drugs on the market you could try. Since those weight loss medications are in different drug classes, they come with different side effects profiles than other GLP-1s.
In general, exercise alone isn’t a great tool for losing weight, but it’s been proven effective at maintaining weight loss. There haven’t been any studies specifically showing how exercise helps with weight loss maintenance after stopping Wegovy (or other obesity medications). Still, based on the research we have on how exercise helps with weight loss maintenance, there’s a good chance it would help curb at least some weight regain.
(Plus, it’s really good for your health!).
Maintain a lower calorie intake
One of the primary ways Wegovy helps you lose weight is by slowing down your digestive system, which decreases appetite and helps you take in fewer calories. After stopping Wegovy, your appetite will likely increase, but maintaining a relatively lower food intake will help you stave off weight gain.
While eating a lower-calorie diet is often easier said than done, the important thing is finding ways to help yourself feel full without taking in extra calories. For some people, taking in more protein can help. For others, a diet that’s higher in fiber does the trick.
Experiment with what works for you, and what’s sustainable long-term.
Do the side effects of Wegovy go away after stopping?
Since Wegovy affects the digestive system, it most commonly causes gastrointestinal (GI) side effects, like nausea, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, and bloating. Most people are able to tolerate these side effects pretty well, but up to 7% of people decide to stop taking Wegovy because the side effects are too disruptive.
If you’ve decided to stop taking Wegovy because of the side effects, how quickly can you expect these effects to stop after you’ve come off of the medication?
Good news: It should only take a few days after your last injection of Wegovy for the side effects to subside. Most of the GI side effects only last for a short period of time after each injection, so you can rest easy that any discomfort you’ve been feeling on Wegovy will go away quickly after stopping.
That’s the positive flip side of the coin to Wegovy being a relatively short-acting drug (it stays in your system for about a week). While stopping it means you’ll likely regain the weight it caused you to lose over time, you also don’t have to worry about side effects overstaying their welcome.
Do you have to wean off of Wegovy?
There’s no need to taper off of Wegovy if you want to stop taking it, but it’s important to work with your healthcare provider on a plan of action. Sometimes, a lower dose can relieve many of the side effects if that’s your reason for wanting to stop it.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your options before you just stop taking Wegovy. They’ll likely be able to help you find a happy medium to help you reach your goals. If pricing is a factor in your decision to stop (if you can’t get insurance coverage), there may be more affordable options.
When should you stop Wegovy?
It’s safe to stay on Wegovy long-term, and it’s designed to be used that way. There are a number of reasons you might stop taking it, though. We’ve already covered the two most common reasons—side effects and cost.
In rare cases, some people develop serious side effects that force them to stop taking Wegovy. Specific examples include:
Acute pancreatitis (an incredibly inflammation of the pancreas)
Acute gallbladder disease (including gallstones)
Acute kidney injury
Suicidal ideation (including sudden changes in your mood, behaviors, thoughts, or feelings)
These side effects are very rare, but if they happen, your healthcare provider will recommend you stop Wegovy right away and find an alternative for weight loss.
Stopping Wegovy is a decision you and your provider should make together to ensure you have the best plan of action moving forward.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Felix Gussone, MD
Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.
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