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GLP-1 oral receptor agonists: Changing the weight loss landscape

1 min Read

Oral GLP-1 receptor agonists, like Rybelsus, could be a game changer for those who don’t want to take weekly injections. Learn about the benefits, side effects, and what’s on the horizon.

What you’ll learn:

  • Most GLP-1 receptor agonist medications are taken as daily or weekly injections. 
  • Rybelsus is the only GLP-1 on the market in tablet form taken by mouth.
  • Another oral GLP-1 option is being tested and may become available in the future. 

Injections are a very effective way to take medication. But let’s face it, they can be uncomfortable or even frightening for some people. Unfortunately, for those prescribed GLP-1 medications for weight loss or diabetes management, like Ozempic, an injection is the only option for nearly all versions of this drug. Thankfully, one oral option is now made in tablet form, with more being developed. 

Rybelsus contains semaglutide (the same active ingredient as Ozempic) and is taken as a once-daily pill. It was approved in 2019 for diabetes management. Like Ozempic, Rybelsus is only FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes, but it can be prescribed off-label for weight loss. 

Here’s how Rybelsus works, common side effects, cost considerations, and when you can potentially expect more GLP-1 oral medications to hit the market. 

How does oral GLP-1 medication work?

An oral GLP-1 receptor agonist works the same way as the injectable version. It mimics a hormone your body already makes called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). This hormone is released after you eat and has some important jobs:

  • Appetite control: It tells your brain you’re full, so you eat less. It also slows down how quickly food leaves your stomach so you feel full longer.
  • Blood sugar management: It helps your body use insulin effectively to lower blood glucose levels (sugar in your blood).

The creation of oral semaglutide (Rybelsus) was made possible due to an absorption enhancer ingredient that helps the medication get into your body through your stomach. This innovative formulation allows for effective delivery of the GLP-1 receptor agonist without the need for injections.

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Oral vs. injectable GLP-1 treatments: Which works better?

The introduction of an injectable GLP-1 has opened up new possibilities for patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity. One study even showed that Rybelsus is as or slightly more effective than an injection. Since it is currently the only approved form of oral GLP-1, we’ll compare it to the injectable version of semaglutide. There are notable differences between the two. 

Oral GLP-1Injectable GLP-1
How much weight did people loseIn a 68-week trial, patients who took oral semaglutide experienced an average reduction of 15% in body weight, with 34% losing up to 20% of their body weight.Similar. People who took injectable semaglutide (Wegovy/Ozempic) once per week achieved an average reduction of 15% in body weight over the same period. One in three lost even more weight, up to 20% of their body weight.
Cost without insurance$935 for a month’s supplySame
Personal considerationsOral medications can be more user-friendly than injections. Some people might be more likely to take it as directed if they are afraid of needles.Some people may experience hesitancy or anxiety related to self-injections, or injection site reactions. 
ConvenienceTablets could be a more discreet option for some people, as they can be taken anywhere. However, you will need to take it every day in the exact same way for it to work correctly. You will only need to take it once a week, which could appeal to people who don’t mind self-injection. It must be refrigerated.
When to take itMust be taken 30 minutes before the first meal of the day without any other medications or supplements.Should be taken on the same day of the week, with or without food,
Common side effectsOral GLP-1 medications may cause gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue which tend to be mild and lessen over time.Injectable GLP-1 medications may also cause gastrointestinal side effects and fatigue which may lessen over time. They also have the potential for injection site reactions, such as pain, redness, or itching.
Potential serious side effectsIn rare cases, oral GLP-1 medications can cause pancreatitis, changes in vision, low blood sugar, gallbladder problems, kidney problems, and allergic reactions. Talk to your doctor about all potential side effects and your health history before beginning a medication.Injectable GLP-1 medications have the same potential serious side effects as oral. Talk to your doctor about all potential side effects and your health history before beginning a medication.

You and your doctor should carefully weigh the benefits of oral GLP-1 medications against the potential risks.  The best choice for you will depend on your lifestyle and preferences. For a more comprehensive look at how oral GLP-1 receptor agonists fit into a holistic approach to diabetes management, check out: Understanding GLP-1 Receptor Agonists.

Are more oral GLP-1 medications being developed?

Orforglipron, made by the same company that produces the GLP-1 medications Zepbound and Mounjaro (tirzepatide), is an oral medication undergoing FDA clinical tests for use in weight loss. In one study, adults lost an average of 14.7% of their weight over 36 weeks.

How to get the best results with GLP-1 medications

Oral GLP-1 medications like Rybelsus can be a game-changer for managing diabetes and weight loss. For some, this means no more needle anxiety or dealing with injection site reactions—plus enhanced weight loss. 

Whether you use an oral or injectable GLP-1, they work best with Noom’s personalized coaching. Noom helps you make sustainable lifestyle changes in coordination with GLP-1s, like healthy eating and exercise habits. This powerful combination can lead to long-term weight management and better overall health.

If you want to find out if a GLP-1 medication is right for you see if you qualify for Noom Med. It can pair you with qualified clinicians who will consider all the current weight loss medication options and help you coordinate benefits. Plus, they’ll help you manage side effects and build an eating and exercise plan to keep the weight off and build muscle. If you’ve already been prescribed medication, switch to Noom’s GLP-1 Companion for comprehensive support that includes protein recommendations and effective workouts.

At Noom, we know that weight loss isn’t just about medication. It’s about making lasting lifestyle changes. With the right plan, you can take control of your health and reach your goals. Noom’s personalized coaching and proven tools complement oral GLP-1, helping you build healthy habits and maximize the benefits of these revolutionary treatments. 

Note: Ozempic and Rybelsus are not FDA-approved to treat obesity or for weight loss.