To take semaglutide, you’ll need a prescription from a doctor, like your primary care physician or endocrinologist.

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In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ozempic, which contains semaglutide as the main active ingredient, as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. In 2019, it approved a different formulation of semaglutide, Rybelsus, for reducing blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes.

In 2021, the FDA approved a third semaglutide formulation, Wegovy, for chronic weight management for those with obesity or overweight and at least one weight-related condition. Wegovy is currently the only form of semaglutide that’s FDA-approved for weight loss.

Semaglutide mimics a hormone called GLP-1 that the GI tract releases when you eat. GLP-1 causes the body to produce more insulin, which is key to reducing glucose levels in the blood. It also creates signals in the brain that reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness in the stomach.

Here’s what else to know if you want to take semaglutide.

Your healthcare professional will determine whether semaglutide could be a good fit for you.

Generally, Ozempic and Rybelsus are prescribed to people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Wegovy is usually prescribed body mass index (BMI). It’s indicated for those who have either of the following:

  • a BMI of 27 kg/m2 or higher and at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure
  • a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher

Keep in mind that semaglutide for weight loss is often combined with other interventions, like exercise and nutritional counseling.

If you don’t meet the above criteria, you may still be prescribed semaglutide for off-label use, which refers to use outside of FDA approval. For example, taking Ozempic solely for weight loss would be considered off-label use. Taking Wegovy for the same purpose would not be off-label use.

While off-label use of medication isn’t uncommon, insurance typically won’t cover the cost of semaglutide in these cases.

The recent rise in off-label use of semaglutide, particularly Ozempic, has led to drug shortages in several countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia.

In the United States, you need a valid prescription from a licensed healthcare professional. Your primary care physician, endocrinologist, or an expert specializing in diabetes management can assess your health status and determine whether you’re a good candidate for the drug.

When in doubt, visiting a general practitioner is a good place to start. You can also use a telemedicine service to secure a prescription online, but you’ll likely need to appear in person to complete lab work.

There are many apps and online services where you may be able to get a prescription written online by a qualified healthcare professional. But again, you’ll likely still need to come in for some testing.

Afterward, you can fill the prescription from an online service or at your local pharmacy.

Be sure you’re working with a licensed prescriber and filling your prescription at a state-licensed pharmacy if you’re in the United States. Due to its growing popularity, unapproved forms of semaglutide are popping up online. These typically contain semaglutide sodium or semaglutide acetate, eight of which have been found safe or effective.

If you do use an online pharmacy, the FDA’s BeSafeRx campaign has tips and resources for securing one as safely as possible.

If you want to take semaglutide, you need a prescription from a doctor. While it may be possible to get a prescription via a telemedicine service, you may still need to go in person to complete any necessary lab work.

When obtaining a prescription, be sure you’re working with a trusted, licensed prescriber and pharmacy.