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Can Weight Loss Medications Like Ozempic Cure Sleep Apnea?

January 23, 2024


Can Weight Loss Medications Help or Cure Sleep Apnea?

In the last few months, the internet has seen a massive increase in the conversations around weight loss medications like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Zepbound. While we’ve likely all seen the impact they may have on weight and food cravings, there are potential side effects that may have a positive impact on patients with sleep apnea. Still, experts have mixed messages about the safety and effectiveness of the drugs for sleep apnea treatment. Let’s discuss what the science says about weight loss medications and sleep apnea. 

At Advanced Homecare, we help sleep apnea patients understand their treatment options and feel confident in using them. We walk patients through the process of getting and using sleep apnea treatments, making it easy for these patients to get the assistance they deserve. 

Weight Loss and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

It is well documented that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is closely linked to obesity, which affects a significant portion of the population. Healthcare providers often recommend weight loss for obese sleep apnea patients, and it can be effective in treating the condition. People have long employed traditional weight loss methods, including diet and exercise, to mitigate OSA symptoms. Doctors may also recommend bariatric surgery, an invasive but effective approach, for overweight patients.

It’s essential to note that weight loss does not cure sleep apnea but mainly reduces symptoms. The evidence suggests that both options equally effectively treat sleep apnea symptoms. Even exercise alone can improve sleep apnea symptoms, even without any weight loss. 

Learn more about how exercise affects sleep apnea here!

Not Just for the Overweight: Sleep Apnea in Thin Individuals

While obesity is a significant risk factor for OSA, not all overweight individuals necessarily suffer from this condition. Surprisingly, even those with a normal body weight can experience snoring and sleep apnea. Around 20% of patients with OSA are not obese, usually experiencing fewer and less severe symptoms. 

What are These Weight Loss Medications?

Pharmaceutical companies initially created and approved the drugs that have recently gained popularity as treatments for type 2 diabetes. The active ingredient in all these drugs is called semaglutide, a class of medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists or glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists. Essentially, GLP-1 receptor agonists control blood sugar levels while eating by stimulating insulin secretion. At higher doses, though, these drugs act on the center of our brains that suppress appetite, causing weight loss. 

Cost and Side Effects

The rise of weight loss medications like Wegovy and Ozempic has brought both hope and skepticism. These drugs, produced by Novo Nordisk, come with a hefty price tag of around $1,000 per month, making them a significant financial commitment for patients. Further, as of May 2023, they’ve been added to the FDA’s drug shortage list. Moreover, insurers, including Medicare, are often reluctant to cover these expenses.

In addition to the financial aspect, the drugs carry potentially severe side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation. The self-administration of these drugs through injections may also deter individuals uncomfortable with needles. This contrasts with non-invasive treatments for sleep apnea, like CPAP, which are often more cost-effective and have fewer side effects.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that GLP-1 receptor agonists are FDA-approved for weight loss- not sleep apnea. This is partially because the data that has come out is extremely limited. The studies that have analyzed the relationship between this class of drug and sleep apnea are small and short. Also, there is not enough evidence to show that it is a treatment that should be widely used. 

Not a Universal Solution for Sleep Apnea

With over 54 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea, the introduction of weight loss medications raises questions about their universality. While these drugs may positively impact the severity of sleep apnea in overweight and obese individuals, a substantial number of the 43 million undiagnosed and untreated Americans will likely require other forms of treatment. If used as a part of a treatment plan, weight loss medications should be seen as part of a multifaceted approach rather than a standalone solution.

Action Plan for Sleep Apnea

If you or a loved one is navigating the challenges of sleep apnea and seeking comprehensive care, we are here to guide you every step of the way. We aim to empower patients with knowledge, confidence, and personalized support to ensure optimal therapy adherence.

Advanced Homecare can help in many ways, from helping you navigate dealings with providers and insurance to providing educational support to ensure you feel confident using your therapies. We also offer coordination of sleep studies and Travel PAP for troops. 

Advanced Homecare is ready to provide the care and support you deserve, whether you’re a new or existing patient. Your journey to better sleep starts here. Start today by contacting our team at www.advancedhomecareonline.com/contact

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