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In the heart of Sydney's eastern suburbs, a discreet but unmistakable trend is reshaping the narrative of weight loss.

Contrary to the prevailing notion that weight loss medications such as Ozempic are reserved for the glitzy lives of celebrities, they have become the go-to secret weapon for hundreds of women, from stay-at-home mums to businesswomen and for even those over 60 - many of whom have spent decades trying to shed excess kilos.

This quiet revolution thrives on whispers of success stories circulating among exclusive circles, creating a hushed but growing movement that challenges societal norms surrounding weight loss. 

What's particularly intriguing is the prevailing silence that shrouds this trend – a silence born out of the stigma associated with these medications, compounded by the outcry that they should only be used for diabetic patients.

That debate has been around ever since we first heard about Ozempic - and yes, while Ozempic should be available for those who need it most, that drug, and other semaglutide injections such as Saxenda and Wegovy, should also be freely available to help prevent diabetes and other associated health issues.

Why wait for a disease to happen if you can prevent it? About 14 million Australians are living with being overweight or obese - that's two in every three adults, and one in four children. Those figures are frightening. Something isn’t working.

Is it the stigma in Australia about being overweight, and the delight by some to fat shame, that has created an arguably underground movement for the wealthy to lose extra kilos by the latest medical science can offer? 

One thing is for certain: the shame about being overweight has led to many online companies such as Juniper and HealthHub to easily offer semaglutide prescriptions after a quiz and online chat with a doctor you’ve never met.

And Juniper even discreetly sends an unmarked brown box with the medication to your door -  advertising its “free and discreet delivery” on its website.

It took me less than two minutes to fill out the quiz (exaggerating my weight) and get to the point of booking a phone call with a doctor. With Health Hub, I filled out a similar quiz and was asked to send a photo which I did - omitting the fact it was four years old, taken at a very unflattering angle and before I had lost weight.

So without any embarrassing face to face meeting with a doctor, or public meetings where you need  to weigh in every week, women can easily access injectable weight loss medication which to many does seems like a miracle cure for one reason: it curbs hunger and reduces blood glucose levels. 

The common side effects of the drugs are nausea, diarrhoea, constipation and dehydration with some claiming it has led to more serious side effects.

And yes, you can lower blood glucose levels through a very disciplined eating program, but many find this challenging when lifestyles revolve around socialising.

So why is this medication so popular in Sydney’s east, and other affluent suburbs, dotted throughout Australia? After all, it is estimated about 23.6 per cent of the south western Sydney adult population is overweight, slightly higher than the NSW average of 22.4 per cent.

Here’s a not so subtle clue - to redefine your relationship with weight and wellness, for one month, you are looking at paying between $400 and $600, which, in today’s cost of living crisis, renders it unaffordable for many.

This fact was reinforced recently by British television personality Kelly Osbourne, a rare celebrity to praise Ozempic (even though her mother, Sharon, said she regretted using Ozempic as she now cannot put on weight). 

A few weeks ago, in an interview with E! News, Kelly described the drug as “amazing”, suggesting that people who criticise her for Ozempic use are doing so due to their own financial reasons.

"People hate on it because they want to do it, and the people who hate on it the most are the people who are secretly doing it or are pissed off that they can't afford it,” she told E! News.

“Unfortunately, right now it's something that is very expensive, but it eventually won't be because it actually works." 

And as new products hit the market, the popularity of weight-loss injections will only skyrocket - despite only Ozempic being listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme even though similar products are approved safe by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has twice refused to subsidise Wegovy - made from semaglutide and marketed specifically for weight loss - and also Mounjaro, which has now launched privately in Australia.

Wegovy’s manufacturer Novo Nordisk said listing the drug on the PBS would offer a treatment option for “a significant portion of the overweight and obese Australian population.”

And yes, while all drugs obviously cannot be subsidised, making these types of drugs more affordable to the general population would reduce the economic burden of obesity - which Novo Nordisk claimed would be “in the order of multiple billions over the forward estimates.”  (The committee rejected  this claim as simplistic) 

While many criticise the increasing phenomenon of weight loss drugs, arguing that such medications should be reserved for specific medical conditions, the reality is far more nuanced. 

The outcry often overshadows the significant positive impacts that these drugs can have, including diabetes prevention, blood pressure reduction and an overall enhancement of well-being.

The rise of weight loss medications in the suburbs is not a fleeting fad; rather, it signifies a paradigm shift in how individuals approach their health and fitness.

This article was first published on The Nightly , which brings \journalism, analysis, and commentary from Australia’s leading voices with a focus on politics, policy, business, and culture.



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