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Stop taking Ozempic, Wegovy before surgery: Doctors

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In this photo illustration, a box of the diabetes medication Ozempic rests on a pharmacy counter on April 17, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

mario tama | Getty Images

People on diabetes and weight loss medications such as Novo Nordisk‘s Ozempic and Wegovy should stop taking them before having elective surgery to reduce the risk of serious health complications, a group of leading doctors has said.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists, an organization of more than 53,000 physicians engaged in anesthesiology, issued interim guidance with that suggestion Thursday evening.

The guidelines are intended to help doctors manage patients taking these drugs who need elective surgeries, which are elective procedures such as kidney stone removal, joint replacement and cosmetic surgery.

The ASA said the advice reflected concerns about the delayed emptying of the stomach or when food stays in the stomach longer than usual. This is one of the effects of diabetes and weight loss drugs, which mimic a hormone produced in the gut called GLP-1 and ultimately suppress a person’s appetite.

According to the ASA, delayed emptying of the stomach can cause patients under anesthesia to experience nausea, vomiting, and aspiration, which is when a person accidentally breathes food into their lungs rather than swallow it.

This is why patients are usually required to fast before undergoing anesthesia for procedures.

The ASA has received anecdotal reports from across the United States that patients taking the drugs during general anesthesia and deep sedation may be at increased risk for these “serious” complications, the group’s chairman said. , Dr. Michael Champeau, in the guidelines.

Ozempic and Wegovy are already associated with side effects like diarrhea and constipation.

But Champeau acknowledged that there is still a lack of scientific data on exactly how anesthesia interacts with these drugs, also known as GLP-1.

Every day, about 60,000 people across the country receive general anesthesia or drugs given to relieve pain during surgeries and other procedures.

It’s unclear how many people take GLP-1 drugs every day, but their popularity has skyrocketed over the past year to be weight-loss “miracles.” Today, Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy are plagued by nationwide shortages. They also face growing competition from similar treatments such as Eli Lilyit is Mounjaro.

As directed by the ASA, individuals taking GLP-1 medication daily should skip treatment on the day of elective surgery.

Those taking GLP-1 weekly should stop treatment one week before scheduled surgery, the group said.

Prior to surgery, physicians should consider consulting an endocrinologist for advice on patients taking GLP-1 for diabetes.

The group also said doctors should consider delaying a patient’s procedure if that person experiences nausea, vomiting or bloating or abdominal pain on the day of the scheduled procedure.

If a patient has none of these symptoms but hasn’t stopped using GLP-1s before surgery, doctors should consider using ultrasound to check if they have a “full stomach.”

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