You’ve probably heard about the blockbuster drug, Ozempic. Maybe you’re already taking it or perhaps you were just watching the Oscars earlier this year. Either way, it’s hard to not know about Ozempic and its growing popularity to not just treat type 2 diabetes, but also weight loss.
As helpful as Ozempic is to lower blood sugar and/or weight, it’s also known for some unpleasant side effects. One possible side effect is gastroparesis, which has led to one of the first lawsuits linked to Ozempic.
What Is Ozempic?
The active ingredient in Ozempic is semaglutide, which is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor antagonist. GLP-1 is a hormone that affects how much insulin the body produces in response to eating food. GLP-1 also affects appetite.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ozempic in 2017 to treat type 2 diabetes. A few years later, the FDA approved Wegovy. Wegovy is basically a higher-dose version of Ozempic and is primarily used to help patients lose weight. There’s also FDA-approved Rybelsus, which is semaglutide in pill form (Ozempic is taken through an injection). These drugs are made by Novo Nordisk, which is enjoying massive profits from the sale of these medications.
As popular as Ozempic has been to treat diabetes and lose weight, it has its fair share of adverse reactions. Many of these relate to digestion. According to Novo Nordisk, some of these side effects include:
- Abdominal pain
While not listed as an official side effect, Novo Nordisk notes that Ozempic may slow down how quickly food leaves the stomach. Novo Nordisk mentions this because it could reduce the effectiveness of an oral medication a person is taking.
One of the ways Ozempic works is by having food take longer to leave the stomach. As a result, someone eating will feel fuller faster, and for a longer period of time. The problem is when the stomach completely stops (or dramatically slows down) the movement of food from the stomach. This can sometimes lead to gastroparesis.
What Is Gastroparesis?
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases defines gastroparesis as “a disorder that slows or stops the movement of food from your stomach to your small intestine, even though there is no blockage in the stomach or intestines.” The stomach digests food and moves it to the small intestine through its muscles, so that’s why gastroparesis is sometimes referred to as stomach paralysis.
After you eat food, your stomach’s muscles work to start the digestion process and pass the food to your small intestine. Depending on your health, what you eat and how much you eat, it takes anywhere from a few hours to eight hours for food to go from your stomach to your small intestine. But with gastroparesis, food might stay in the stomach for much longer, up to a few days. Here are some of the most common symptoms of gastroparesis:
- Feeling full even though it’s been several hours after eating or immediately after you start eating
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive burping
- Diminished appetite
- Feeling bloated
For many people, there’s no known cause for their gastroparesis. However, when there is a known cause, it’s often diabetes. High blood sugar over time can damage nerves that control stomach muscles. This can result in the stomach muscles becoming weak or not working at all.
Does Ozempic Cause Gastroparesis?
The exact link between gastroparesis and Ozempic is not yet clear. Recall from the above section that one of the biggest causes for gastroparesis is diabetes. So there’s the question of whether Ozempic causes gastroparesis or worsens it in patients who already have it, but don’t know it.
It should be noted that Ozempic’s label provides no warning for gastroparesis as a side effect. However, Prevention.com mentions that during the clinical trials, none of the test subjects reported having gastroparesis.
Is There an Ozempic Lawsuit Relating to Gastroparesis?
Yes. In August, Jaclyn Bjorklund sued Novo Nordisk, as well as Eli Lilly, the makers of Mounjaro. Mounjaro is the brand name for tirzepatide, which is similar semaglutide in how it works. Bjorklund claims that she took both Ozempic and Mounjaro and that they both led to her physical injuries.
In her legal complaint, Bjorklund alleges that because she took these two medications, she suffered from gastroparesis and other gastrointestinal problems, such as gastroenteritis. Bjorklund states that her vomiting from taking these medications was so severe, she lost some of her teeth.
The crux of Borklund’s case is that Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk failed to properly warn of the risk of gastroparesis and gastroenteritis. While Ozempic came with important safety information that mentioned that food might stay in the stomach longer, Bjorklund asserts that this wasn’t done to warn prospective Ozempic users of the drug’s side effects. Instead, it was mentioned within the context of drug interactions when taking another medication orally.
Will There Be More Lawsuits Relating to GLP-1 Drugs?
Most likely. If there really is a link between gastrointestinal problems (like gastroparesis) and GLP-1 medications, then Bjorklund’s case is probably the first of many.
What Happens Next with the Ozempic Litigation?
There will likely be more lawsuits and more studies further clarifying the connection between GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and gastrointestinal issues. Based on the available information (so far) and Bjorklund’s lawsuit, it doesn’t seem like Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus are inherently bad drugs that must be removed from the market. Instead, patients and their doctors might need more information before deciding on medications.
Collective litigation is also a possibility, although it’s more likely going to come in the form of multidistrict litigation rather than a class-action lawsuit. This is because personal injury lawsuits tend to have enough differences in the various plaintiffs’ legal and factual claims that a class action lawsuit isn’t possible.
If you’ve taken a GLP-1 medication like Ozempic and suffer from serious stomach and/or intestinal issues like gastroparesis or gastroenteritis, it’s possible you could take legal action. To learn more about your rights, it’s best to talk to an attorney, especially one that focuses on product liability personal injury cases. If you know one already, get in touch with them. Or you can call me at 919.334.6277 and I’ll see how I can help.