The New Gold Rush

Sep 26, 2023

A rare sighting of Ozempic, which has flown off pharmacy shelves since the approval of semaglutide for weight loss and kicked off a pharmaceutical gold rush.


Celebrities such as (from left) Kim Kardashian, Mindy Kaling and Rebel Wilson reportedly used Ozempic to shed weight although they have not admitted to it.

“There’s gold in them thar hills”—California 1848

“There’s gold in them thar pills”—Denmark and Minneapolis, present day.

In 1848 gold was discovered in California and craziness erupted as thousands rushed west to find their fortune.

In 2021 the FDA approved semaglutide, a GLP-1 agonist, for weight loss and craziness erupted around the world as millions rushed to procure the semaglutide brand name medications, Ozempic®, Wegovy®, and Rybelsus® in the name of thinness. However, this time, the fortune went to Big Pharma. The main differences between Ozempic®, Wegovy® and Rybelsus® is that the first two are injectable and the last is an oral medication.

Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company, develops semaglutide. The Danish gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 1.7%, according to national statistics, from sales of semaglutide whereas without it the GDP would have fallen by 0.3%. Analysts expect sales of semaglutide to reach $15 billion annually in 2027.  The huge influx of US dollars has pushed Denmark to lower interest rates. Not surprisingly, Novo’s share price is up by 50% this year.

A rival GLP-1 agonist, Mounjaro®, made by Eli Lilly, a Minneapolis-headquartered American pharmaceutical company, is even more effective for weight loss. By 2031, analysts predict that the market for GLP-1 agonists could reach $150bn, which rivals the market for anticancer agents.

GLP‐1 agonists mimic the naturally occurring GLP‐1 hormone that the gut releases after a meal. This hormone 1) stimulates the secretion of insulin, a hormone that causes cells to take up glucose from the blood, 2) inhibits the release of glucagon, a hormone that opposes the action of insulin and 3) signals at the hypothalamus in the brain to reduce food intake. The result: better glucose control for diabetics and up to 10-15% weight loss.

But what about exercise—as in exercise caution? Because potential side effects of semaglutide are gastroparesis or stomach paralysis, a debilitating and dangerous condition, severe muscle loss, and suicidal thoughts. Others are “Ozempic face” or “O-face”, where the facial skin looks saggy, wrinkled, and aged because the face loses fat so quickly, and “Ozempic or Wegovy butt”, which is basically the same as “O-face” just from the rear. Also some patients like model, Remi Bader, have complained about binge eating and rebound weight gain when these medications are stopped.

Despite these potential side effects, the outlook of pharmaceutical companies with GLP-1 agonists has never looked more golden.