An Australian woman died of acute gastrointestinal illness, and her husband believes it came after she took Ozempic—a drug for type 2 diabetes—to lose weight for her daughter’s wedding.
Trish Webster, who did not have diabetes, started taking Ozempic, which is known for inducing weight loss, months before her daughter’s wedding in an attempt to slim down. Her husband Roy shared with 60 Minutes Australia that Trish first saw a TV commercial about it in 2022 and obtained a doctor’s prescription in the same year.
After five months of taking Ozempic and switching to another weight loss injectable Saxenda, Trish was able to lose 16 kilos. Roy, however, said that she was also constantly ill.
“She went back a couple of times to the doctor saying she was sick. She had diarrhea, nausea,” he said. Despite this, she continued taking the medication since she was preparing for her daughter’s big day.
“My daughter was getting married, and she just kept mentioning that dress that she wanted to wear,” he said. “She went to drastic measures of doing what she’s doing. the dressmaker to get the measurements. Just was one big nightmare from there.”
Trish believed that the side effects would pass like they usually do, but in January this year, she experienced its severe impacts that eventually led to her death.
"She had a little bit of brown stuff coming out of her mouth and I realized she wasn't breathing and started doing CPR, and it was just pouring out," Roy recalled.
According to her death certificate, Trish's passing was caused by acute gastrointestinal illness. While it didn’t state whether the drugs caused it, Roy believes that it significantly contributed to her death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to gastrointestinal illness (gastroenteritis) as the "inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines."
"I never thought you could die from it," he said. “I didn’t know it could happen to a person.”
According to 60 Minutes Australia, Ozempic manufacturer Novo Nordisk has yet to comment on the matter.
As stated on its website, Ozempic is proven to lower blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes. While it may help in losing weight, Ozempic's manufacturer stressed that it is not a weight-loss drug.
In an interview with PhilSTAR L!fe, Dr. Antonio Pescador Jr.—who specializes in diet and nutrition as well as endocrinology—said that Ozempic has an active ingredient called a "semaglutide" that prompts the body to produce more insulin.
"It mimics the hormone Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which pushes the body to produce more insulin that reduces blood sugar. But apart from this action, semaglutide also has a suppressive effect on your appetite, reduces hunger, and increases satiety by slowing down digestion causing food to stay in the stomach for longer periods creating that feeling of fullness," he said. "This effect is the reason why using this medication has led to weight loss."
Pescador said its side effects are generally mild, but the severity could still depend on the patient's profile.
The medication can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and constipation. Some of its serious side effects, meanwhile, include pancreatitis, kidney problems, and gallbladder problems, among others.