By LIM KELVIN
Principal Trainer, CARiNG Pharmacy
Imagine if there were a pen (without an apple) that could miraculously enable us to lose weight and eat less. Jab that pen into your stomach once a week and, lo and behold, you’re much thinner in just a few months.
Now, imagine that this pen isn’t imaginary, but is actually available through your doctor.
Would you want it?
Looking down at my belly, I would have to say yes, I do. I imagine that every single person with excess belly fat would share the same answer. I want it, but I haven’t used it. Let’s take a look at the reasons why.
For those still wondering about these magical pens, we’re discussing the latest fat-burner fad, the GLP-1 analogues. If you are an active user of Tik Tok, I am sure you must have seen short videos of this weight loss ‘magic pen’!
This new group of medications first hit the market in 2005, but for a long time, they were only approved for improving blood glucose control. Then in 2014, a member of this class of medication gained approval to be used for the purpose of weight loss in overweight and obese patients.
Since their launch, these drugs have been in high demand. Everyone with a fat belly and a wallet (yes, they’re not cheap) rushed to their doctors to get them. Many left disappointed, however, as their doctors told them that they did not meet the criteria to use these drugs.
So, what do these people do? They scour the internet for “lubangs” or ways they can find these medications online without needing a prescription. It’s illegal to sell or buy controlled medication in this manner, but these desperate individuals seem indifferent. At a click of a button (and maybe face ID if you’re an Apple user), these contraband medicines are delivered to your doorstep.
A moment ago, I mentioned we would be discussing the reasons why I still have a slab of fat on my belly even though I know how to obtain these medications legitimately or illegally. Below are my reasons:
1. Only shady people sell controlled medications online without a prescription.
In Malaysia and many countries, most controlled medications require a valid prescription. Furthermore, only licensed pharmacies are authorized to dispense these items. For someone to deliberately break the law and sell these items online, they would use a false identity to prevent themselves from being prosecuted by law enforcement.
When you buy from someone hiding behind a false identity, that person is now free of any form of responsibility. He or she can practically sell you expired, damaged, or even outright counterfeit goods without any repercussions. Which brings us to our second point…
2. These illegitimate websites could very well be selling damaged medicine.
These medications need to be stored within a strict temperature range (between 2-8 degrees Celsius). If you obtain these medications from licensed pharmacies, they will have measures in place to ensure the “cold chain” isn’t broken from the distribution center, up to the point the medication is in your hands. The cold chain means the temperature never goes out of range, even during transportation and storage.
If you buy temperature-sensitive medicine online, how likely do you think it is that the temperature will be maintained within the range during the entire process of transport and storage? For it to arrive at your destination, it passes through many stages in the courier company, probably none of which guarantee proper temperature control.
Even if the medicine is legitimate, by the time it reaches your hands, it’s most likely been damaged by heat or mishandling.
What’s worse, the items sold online could have been damaged to begin with. Faceless, consequence-less sellers or unscrupulous pharmacists can sell off damaged goods at a good price online. They aren’t afraid of any ramifications, nor do they know you personally. So, dumping damaged goods online is an easy way to “salvage” their profits.
3. These medications require a prescription for a REASON.
Despite the pen being approved for weight loss, it is still very much a drug/medicine.
Like all drugs, side effects, precautions, and contraindications exist. This means that not everyone is suited for this drug, and the benefits outweigh the risks only under certain conditions.
One of the conditions that could occur with this drug is pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas, resulting in severe pain and long-term problems for the patient, since the pancreas is a crucial organ that performs multiple tasks. There are enough cases of reported pancreatitis to warrant a warning included in the medication leaflets, and those who are prone to pancreatitis would not be prescribed this drug by a medical practitioner.
This is just one of many conditions that the prescriber needs to rule out before starting you on the medication. Since most of us aren’t medical doctors, we should always consult with them before starting ANY form of controlled medication.
4. The wrong use could lead to harmful side effects.
These GLP-1 analogues are not just weight loss aids – they are medications that can have profound effects on your body’s functioning. They can cause nausea, diarrhea, and even affect your kidney function. It’s not just about taking a shot and watching the pounds melt away. It involves proper dose management and regular health checks to ensure the medication isn’t doing more harm than good. Misusing these medications, especially without a doctor’s supervision, could be potentially hazardous.
5. The weight might just come back.
While these drugs can certainly help reduce body weight, they aren’t a magic solution for maintaining a healthy weight long-term. A lifestyle change is needed for that. Relying solely on these drugs, then discontinuing their use without any dietary changes or exercise, would most likely lead to regaining the weight. Therefore, they should ideally be used as a tool to facilitate lifestyle change, not as a standalone solution.
In conclusion, the lure of an easy weight-loss solution is understandably tempting. It is, however, crucial to remember that these drugs are not for everyone, require a doctor’s prescription, and must be used responsibly. There are real dangers associated with their misuse or unsupervised use, including serious health consequences and the risk of using damaged or counterfeit drugs. Most importantly, they are not a replacement for a healthy diet and regular exercise, which remain the most effective and sustainable strategies for weight management.
While we all wish there was a miracle pen to make our weight loss journeys easier, the real miracle lies within our grasp. It’s called a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle. Sure, it’s not as simple as a jab of a pen, but it’s far safer and the results are not only more sustainable but beneficial to our overall health. Remember, always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new medication or weight loss regime.