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Canadian Med Center

Rybelsus (Semaglutide) for Weight Loss

Tuesday 23 April 2024
5 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. What is Rybelsus?

II. How Rybelsus Works

III. Does Rybelsus Cause Weight Loss?

IV. Is Rybelsus Effective for Weight Loss?

V. Conclusion

With over 73% of American adults classified as overweight or obese, [1] pharmaceutical companies are working on breakthrough medications that can turn the tide on this epidemic. One promising new drug is Rybelsus, which has generated considerable buzz for its potential to help people successfully shed excess pounds.

In this article, we'll discuss how Rybelsus works, whether it promotes effective weight loss and the results of Novo Nordisk's new trial testing Rybelsus as a weight loss treatment.

What is Rybelsus?

Rybelsus is an oral medication that was approved by the FDA in 2017 for adults with type 2 diabetes. This innovative pill is the first GLP-1 receptor agonist that can be taken by mouth instead of injection. [2] Other GLP-1 receptor agonists include:

  • Ozempic is a semaglutide that is administered through injection. It is FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues in adults with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. [3]
  • Wegovy is a semaglutide that is administered through injection. It is FDA-approved to help weight loss in adults and children ages 12 years and up. [4]

Rybelsus helps improve glycemic control when combined with a healthy diet and exercise plan. By taking Rybelsus as prescribed, patients see lower blood sugar levels over time. This can reduce the risk of diabetes complications. [2]

However, Rybelsus is not a standalone treatment. To get the full benefits, patients should adhere to the complete diabetes management plan recommended by their doctor. This includes continuing to eat a nutritious diet, staying active with regular exercise, and closely monitoring blood sugar levels. [2]

How Rybelsus Works

a woman taking medication tablets with a glass of water

Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company responsible for developing Rybelsus, is also the manufacturer of two other medications: Ozempic and Wegovy. [5] All three of these drugs contain the same active ingredient, semaglutide, which belongs to a class of medications known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists.

GLP-1 receptor agonists work by mimicking the effects of a hormone called GLP-1 that is naturally released by your intestines when you eat. [2] This allows them to have the following effects on the body:

  • Signal your pancreas to produce insulin, which helps move glucose from your blood into your cells to be used for energy. GLP-1 receptor agonists like semaglutide ensure your pancreas releases insulin when needed, especially after meals when blood sugar tends to rise.
  • Inhibit the production of glucagon, a hormone that raises blood sugar. By reducing glucagon, these drugs help prevent excess glucose from being released into the bloodstream from the liver.
  • Slow the stomach emptying, which helps control how quickly nutrients from a meal enter the blood. Slower stomach emptying can prevent spikes in blood sugar after eating and may lead to feeling full for longer, potentially decreasing overall calorie intake. [2]

Does Rybelsus Cause Weight Loss?

a woman taking a weight loss tablet

Rybelsus (semaglutide) is an FDA-approved medication for treating type 2 diabetes. While not formally approved for chronic weight management, it has been shown to help patients lose weight when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise. [2]

This weight loss benefit makes sense, as over 89% of adults with type 2 diabetes are overweight or have obesity. [6] So, by targeting diabetes, Rybelsus also impacts weight.

Rybelsus helps with weight loss in two key ways:

  • Improves blood sugar control. Semaglutide tells the pancreas to release more insulin, which allows sugar from food to be used for energy in cells. This smooths out blood sugar spikes that can lead to cravings. Semaglutide also reduces glucagon, a hormone that tells the liver to release stored sugar. Lower glucagon keeps blood sugar steady and prevents hunger from low blood sugar.
  • Reduces appetite. GLP-1 receptors in the brain, especially in the hypothalamus, regulate hunger and fullness signals. When semaglutide activates these receptors, it tells the brain to feel less hungry and more satisfied with smaller meals. It also slows stomach emptying so food stays in the stomach longer, promoting fullness and reducing the urge to overeat. [2]

With its combined blood sugar and appetite effects, it's understandable why some doctors prescribe Rybelsus off-label for weight management. While not an approved use, the weight loss benefits can be substantial for the right patients when coupled with lifestyle changes.

Is Rybelsus Effective for Weight Loss?

Novo Nordisk has recently released promising findings from a 68-week phase 3a clinical trial evaluating the weight loss potential of Rybelsus. [7]

The trial, called OASIS 1, involved 667 overweight or obese adults who had health issues due to excess weight. It found that Rybelsus, used alongside lifestyle changes, led to substantial weight loss compared to a placebo. A placebo is a treatment that has no therapeutic benefit. [7]

  • Participants taking 50 mg of Rybelsus once daily for 68 weeks lost an average of 17.4% of their body weight. In contrast, those taking a placebo only lost 1.8% of their body weight.
  • Nearly 90% of Rybelsus patients lost at least 5% of their weight, compared to only about 25% of those on the placebo.
  • After researchers accounted for participants who did not take the medication as prescribed, Rybelsus still led to an average of 15.1% weight loss, with 84.9% losing 5% or more. [7]

The higher dose of Rybelsus was found to be safe and generally well tolerated, with the most common side effects being gastrointestinal problems like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Given these promising findings, Novo Nordisk intends to apply for FDA approval of Rybelsus as a weight loss treatment. [7]

Overall, while Rybelsus is currently only approved as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, it has been shown to lead to meaningful weight loss when used by overweight and obese patients, even without diabetes. This unintended but beneficial side effect is why some doctors currently prescribe it off-label for weight loss or weight loss in patients with diabetes.


Rybelsus shows promise as an option for weight loss and obesity management when combined with lifestyle changes. Clinical trial results from OASIS 1 demonstrate that it can promote meaningful weight loss and improve blood sugar control.

However, Rybelsus should not be viewed as a standalone solution. For the best results, Rybelsus should be used under the supervision of a doctor as part of a comprehensive weight loss plan that incorporates diet, exercise, and behavioral strategies.

For more information on Rybelsus, visit our Rybelsus blog for additional topics.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.