Navigating GLP-1 Agonist Cessation

There are four TGA-approved Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists available in Australia for the management of Type 2 Diabetes:

  • dulaglutide (Trulicity)
  • semaglutide (Ozempic)
  • tirzepatide (Mounjaro)
  • liraglutide (Saxenda)

Only liraglutide (Saxenda) is approved by the TGA for use in weight loss as well. 

As we approach the festive season, a mix of budget constraints and persistent stock shortages might cause worries for those relying on GLP-1 agonists.

When you take any of the above medications, your body gets used to it – especially if you have been taking it for some time. But what happens when you stop taking them?

Let’s discuss the short and long-term effects of taking and stopping GLP-1 treatment, including tips for how to do this safely to prevent withdrawal symptoms

What can you expect if your treatment gets interrupted?     

  • Cravings and weight gain

Upon interruption or cessation, patients commonly report a resurgence of intense cravings and appetite, often surpassing pre-treatment levels. This heightened appetite, coupled with a return of impulsive behaviours, becomes a primary challenge. The significant increase in hunger and cravings tends to be most pronounced initially, evening out over the subsequent weeks or months, leading to an associated effect – weight gain.

One study highlights that ceasing semaglutide results in substantial weight regain, with participants regaining two-thirds of their lost weight within a year. Beyond physical changes, cessation may impact the mood, especially for those who have experienced positive shifts in their weight and overall health during treatment.

  • Blood sugar levels

There may also be a significant increase in blood glucose levels. Those with diabetes may encounter symptoms such as blurred vision, fatigue, and heightened thirst and urination – signs that might have contributed to their initial diabetes diagnosis.

  • Subsiding side effects

In certain instances, upon discontinuation of the medication, individuals may discover that they had been facing side effects while on semaglutide, such as mild headaches, nausea or upset stomachs.

Does gradual tapering help? 

To mitigate the abrupt impact of cessation, patients are advised to try a gradual tapering approach instead of an immediate halt. This involves optimising medicines for any coexisting health conditions and empowering patients to transition into cessation mindfully.

Adopt mindful methods and ongoing support

To alleviate an insatiable appetite, patients are encouraged to go on a nutrient-rich diet. Suggestions include incorporating protein into every meal and consuming water-filled foods for a sense of fullness. Food tracker apps can assist patients in managing their intake more mindfully. It’s also essential to make sleep a priority.

Starting back up again

Those who resume a full dose abruptly instead of gradually increasing their dosage may encounter more pronounced side effects initially, such as vomiting and diarrhoea. Patients must not overlook certain guidelines they followed when initially starting the medications, such as chewing slowly and avoiding heavy foods to prevent feeling overly full and becoming sick. For those who incrementally return to their original dose, the process of losing weight may take even longer than on the original occasion, contributing an additional challenge to an already demanding cycle of medication.

Here to help

For personalised support in managing your weight, consult with your healthcare provider or our friendly pharmacists – Jenny, Gavin, Maria, Amy, or Jill. Additionally, we’re excited to introduce our resident Naturopath, Rochelle, who specialises in addressing the root causes of health concerns.

Feel free to reach out to any of our team members for a helpful chat at (03) 9509 7912 or visit us in person at 153 Burke Rd, Glen Iris, VIC 3146. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Rochelle, you can conveniently book online. We’re here to support you on your wellness journey.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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