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When Wegovy was first approved by the US FDA for weight loss, there was a worldwide surge in demand. Supply shortages of Wegovy resulted in doctors prescribing Ozempic “off-label” for weight loss in patients without type 2 diabetes. Off-label prescribing involves using a medication for a medical condition not approved by regulatory authorities. The responsibility lies greatly with the doctor in assessing and weighing the risks and benefits of treatment. This article gives you a complete guide on weight-loss medication in Singapore. 

So the quick answer is “No”. Novo Nordisk, the company that developed both Ozempic and Wegovy have released a statement that they are not interchangeable. Ozempic and Wegovy also differ in their dosing regimen. 

Mounjaro (Tirzepatide): The Exception

Mounjaro Singapore

Mounjaro, the latest addition to the GLP-1 family, features the active ingredient tirzepatide. The US FDA approved Mounjaro in May 2022 for treating type 2 diabetes. Following Mounjaro’s development, Eli Lilly, the company behind it, also created Zepbound, featuring the same active ingredient: tirzepatide. The US FDA subsequently approved Zepbound in November 2023 for treating obesity in non-diabetic patients. Sounds similar to the story of Ozempic and Wegovy?

Same same, NO difference.Embarking on a weight loss journey can be both challenging and rewarding. With numerous strategies available, it is essential to consider approaches backed by scientific research. One approach that has gained attention is GLP-1, short for Glucagon-Like Peptide-1.

Endorsed by billionaire mogul Elon Musk and Hollywood celebrities for weight loss, the hype over GLP-1 is exploding worldwide. Tired of trying out weight loss trends that never really work? You are not alone. At Sire, we provide insights into the science of GLP-1 and how medications may be your solution.

Exploring the medication: The Hormone and Its Medications

GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide-1, is a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates insulin production in the body. Developers have created medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists or incretin mimetics to replicate the effects of it and leverage the benefits of this hormone.

Revolutionising Diabetes Treatment: GLP-1 for Type 2 Diabetes

Originally designed for treating type 2 diabetes, GLP-1 receptor agonists have gained prominence. The receptor agonists go beyond just improving blood sugar control in patients with type 2 diabetes. They are also found to confer cardioprotective and renoprotective effects in diabetic patients. Unlike insulin, the GLP-1 receptor agonists do not cause weight gain or significant hypoglycemia. The American Diabetes Association now recommends these receptor agonists as one of two first-line therapies for type 2 diabetes. 

Beyond Diabetes: Expanding Applications of GLP-1 Medications

Beyond blood sugar control, these medications have shown significant effects in reducing food intake and body weight. This prompted an exploration in the use of GLP-1 receptor agonists in treating obesity. Currently, some of these receptor agonists have approval to treat obesity in patients with and without diabetes.

The remarkable impact of GLP-1 medications has spurred interest in the medical community. Ongoing research explores their potential for treating conditions beyond diabetes and obesity, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and addiction disorders. This opens new avenues for leveraging the benefits provided by it in diverse healthcare domains. 

Understanding Weight Loss Mechanisms 

Stimulating Insulin and Slowing Gastric Emptying

GLP-1, beyond its role in insulin production, plays a crucial role in slowing gastric emptying. GLP-1 medications or receptor agonists, slow down the process by which the stomach releases its contents into the small intestine. This deliberate slowing down contributes to a cascade of effects, including appetite reduction, slower digestion and improved blood sugar control. Unravelling these mechanisms sheds light on the comprehensive impact of the medication on managing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. 

Challenging Weight Misconceptions: The Role of Signalling Pathways

Recent research highlights the influence of unregulated signalling pathways in appetite regulation. People facing lifelong weight challenges may not comprehend the sensation of simply “feeling full”. GLP-1 acts on the hypothalamus in the brain to increase feelings of fullness and reduce feelings of hunger. GLP-1 medications can act as a programming tool, guiding individuals to identify food portions that suit their body needs, avoiding overindulgence.

Reprogramming the Path to Weight Loss

GLP-1 medications or receptor agonists not only intervene in biological processes but also guide behavioural or lifestyle changes. By programming our bodies to recognise “fullness”, GLP-1 medications pave the way for lower calorie intake and subsequent weight loss. Understanding this dual role, it provides a comprehensive perspective on its effectiveness in weight management.

GLP-1 Medications in Singapore: A Comparison

Global interest for weight loss has been on a steady rise.  Here is a quick comparison among the available GLP-1 medications or receptor agonists available in Singapore:

GLP 1 comparison Singapore- Infographic

If you are curious how GLP-1 medications compare with other weight loss medications in Singapore, read a comparison review by our medical team at Sire here

GLP 1 weight loss injection - Sire

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We always recommend consulting a doctor before starting any medication. 

GLP-1 Medications for Weight Loss

In Singapore, regulatory authorities have currently approved two GLP-1 receptor agonists for treating obesity in individuals with and without diabetes.

Wegovy (Semaglutide)

What it is: Wegovy (semaglutide) is a medication that the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in Singapore approved for use as a weight loss medication in March 2023. Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy, helps to reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness, leading to reduced food intake and weight loss. 

How it works: Wegovy is self-administered by a subcutaneous injection in a pre-filled pen to the abdomen, thigh or upper arm once a week. Doctors typically prescribe Wegovy at a low dose and gradually increase it. Additionally, a different area of the body should be used each week. Always use Wegovy exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to.

How effective it is: Clinical trials have shown that Wegovy, together with lifestyle changes, can help people lose an average of 15% of their body weight over a period of 16 to 68 weeks. This is significantly more weight loss than any other weight loss treatments. 

Saxenda (Liraglutide)

What it is: Saxenda (liraglutide) is a medication that the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in Singapore approved for use as a weight loss medication in May 2022. Liraglutide, the active ingredient in Saxenda, works similarly to semaglutide. Saxenda (liraglutide) helps to reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness, leading to reduced food intake and weight loss. 

How it works: Saxenda is self-administered by a subcutaneous injection in a pre-filled pen to the abdomen, thigh or upper arm once a day. The injection site should be rotated daily. Saxenda is usually prescribed at a low dose and then gradually increased. Always use Saxenda exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to.

How effective it is: Clinical trials have shown that Saxenda, together with lifestyle changes, can help people lose an average of 6% of their body weight over a period of 56 weeks. Saxenda’s weight loss effects are typically more modest than those seen with Wegovy. Likewise, Saxenda has also demonstrated improvements in other health markers such as blood sugar control and blood pressure.

GLP-1 Medications NOT for Weight Loss

GLP-1 medications or GLP-1 receptor agonists approved for type 2 diabetes may contain the same active ingredient as those for weight loss. For example, Wegovy, Ozempic and Rybelsus all contain semaglutide while Saxenda and Victoza both contain liraglutide. Does it mean that we can interchange their use depending on what is available, or which is cheaper?

Same same but different.

You may have seen TikTok trends citing Ozempic for weight loss. This must be understood in context. While Ozempic contains the same active ingredient as Wegovy, it is not intended as a weight loss medication. Ozempic is designed and studied in patients with type 2 diabetes to improve blood sugar

Yes and no. The US FDA recognised Mounjaro and Zepbound as distinct medications for different treatments. However, other regulatory authorities like the European Medicines Agency, consider them the same. 

The key difference here is that Mounjaro and Zepbound contain the exact same dose and strength of tirzepatide. The dosing regimens for both Mounjaro and Zepbound are the same. In contrast, Ozempic and Wegovy contain the active ingredient semaglutide in different doses, strengths and dosing regimens.  

Singapore’s HSA has currently approved Mounjaro for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It is still currently under review for the treatment of obesity in non-diabetic patients. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when Mounjaro or Zepbound is available in Singapore for weight management. 

Who Should Use it for Weight Loss?

Who should use GLP 1 for weight loss in Singapore - Infographic

  • People with an initial BMI of 30 or higher; or 
  • People with an initial BMI of 27 or higher; and at least one weight-related medical problem (such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol).

If you have tried weight loss methods such as diet and exercise without achieving success, it is important to speak to your doctor. A doctor can conduct a thorough assessment to determine if a GLP-1 agonist is beneficial for you based on your health concerns and goals. The agonist should also be part of a comprehensive approach that includes diet and lifestyle modifications. Begin your journey to a healthy and sustainable weight with Sire today! 

What are the Common Side Effects of GLP-1?

Gastrointestinal side effects of GLP-1 receptor agonists are common, particularly at higher doses. Gastrointestinal side effects may include nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. These side effects are usually mild to moderate and may go away on their own after a few days or weeks. 

To minimize the risk of these side effects, doctors typically initiate the medications at a low dose and then gradually increase them over time. Always speak to your doctor about any side effect that bothers you or does not go away. Do not make adjustments to the medication independently unless directed by your doctor. 

Are there any Serious Side Effects of GLP-1?

In rare cases, the medications may cause serious side effects such as pancreatitis, gallbladder problems, kidney problems and allergic reactions. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe abdominal pain, persistent nausea or vomiting or difficulty urinating.

Is it Safe to Use GLP-1 Long-Term?

The GLP-1 receptor agonists are a relatively new class of medications that have been approved for use in recent years. The long-term safety of these medications has not been fully established as the majority of clinical trials are less than four years in duration.


Major Safety Concerns: 

Risk of Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid C-cell tumours were observed to have developed during animal studies with GLP-1 agonists in the early stages of drug development. It is currently unclear whether any effect is present in humans and investigations are still ongoing. Until the results of this research is made available, GLP-medications are not recommended to be used in people with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).

If you have a history of these conditions, or if you experience any symptoms of thyroid cancer such as a lump or swelling in the neck, difficulty swallowing or hoarseness, you should inform your healthcare provider immediately.

Mental Health Effects

Overseas regulatory authorities have received emerging reports on suicidal thoughts or actions in patients treated with GLP-1 receptor agonists. Preliminary evaluation of these reports have not found evidence that the use of GLP-1 agonist causes suicidal thoughts or actions. While there have been no local reports received by the HSA, a worldwide safety review is ongoing to assess this potential safety concern. 

Tips for Using GLP-1 Injections Safely

tips for using GLP 1 in Singapore

When using GLP-1 injections as part of your treatment plan, ensuring their safe and effective use is crucial. Here are some essential tips to guide you:

Follow Prescribed Guidelines

Always adhere to the specific instructions provided by your healthcare professional or prescribing doctor. This includes the recommended dosage, injection site and frequency of administration. 

Purchase from Authorised Sources

Beware of counterfeit GLP-1 medications. The HSA has removed listings of Ozempic and Wegovy on local e-commerce platforms. GLP-1 medications can only be supplied through a doctor’s prescription in Singapore.

Proper Storage

Store GLP-1 injections as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, GLP-1 injections should be refrigerated. Always check the product details for specific requirements. Avoid exposure to extreme temperatures. 

Injection Site Rotation

Rotate injection sites to prevent the development of lumps or skin changes. Common injection sites include the abdomen, thigh or upper arm. Consistent rotation ensures optimal drug absorption and minimises discomfort. 

Skin Preparation

Clean the injection site with an alcohol swab before administering the injection. This reduces the risk of infection and ensures a sterile environment. 

Needle Disposal 

Safely dispose of used needles in a puncture-resistant container (cue Milo tin cans etc). Follow local regulations for medical waste disposal to protect yourself and others. 

Monitor for Side Effects

Stay vigilant for any potential side effects, such as redness, swelling or itching at the injection site. Report any unusual reactions to your healthcare provider promptly.

Regular Check-Ups

Schedule regular check-ups with your doctor to monitor your overall health and assess the effectiveness of the GLP-1 treatment. 

Sire Singapore: Your Path to Sustainable Weight Loss

In the quest for effective weight loss solutions, GLP-1 emerges as a beacon of hope. Its proven effectiveness, sustainability and minimal side effects make it a compelling option for individuals in Singapore and beyond. 

Sire Singapore offers a research-backed pathway to weight loss success. By understanding the medications, personalising strategies and embracing a holistic approach, you can achieve sustainable results. No more one-size-fits-all approaches. It is not just about losing weight, it is about creating sustainable habits for a healthier, happier you. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can non-diabetics use GLP-1?

Yes, Wegovy and Saxenda are GLP-1 medications approved for weight management in non-diabetics in Singapore. The FDA has approved Zepbound or Mounjaro for weight management in non-diabetics. Zepbound or Mounjaro is currently under review by the HSA for this purpose.

Q: Does GLP-1 work effectively for weight loss?

Yes, GLP-1 medications like Wegovy and Saxenda have demonstrated effectiveness in weight management in clinical trials. However, they are not miracle drugs. Wegovy and Saxenda should be prescribed along lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. Without these lifestyle changes, the benefits of GLP-1 may be limited.

Q: Is GLP-1 safe for weight loss?

GLP-1 medications are considered safe for weight loss when used under the guidance of a healthcare professional. As with any medication, there may be side effects, but these are typically manageable. Your healthcare provider can assess your suitability for GLP-1 based on your health profile and weight loss goals. 

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