WEIGHT MANAGEMENT ∙ 4 minutes read

Everything you need to know about Rybelsus for weight loss

By Kirsty Mason | Medically reviewed by Rupal Joshi

Shockingly, two-thirds of adults in the UK are overweight or obese. Not only does excess weight put you at risk of serious physical complications, but it can also affect your mental health. That’s why it’s so important to find a weight loss regime that works for you. 

It’s well known that the best way to tackle obesity is to follow a healthy diet and regular exercise. But it’s not always that simple. Although most people tend to lose weight initially, it’s extremely common to pile back on the pounds. Often, weight loss results plateau and this leads people to feel demotivated and break their diet.

Weight-loss medications, designed to supplement a healthy diet and lifestyle, have helped to put a stop to the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting. Let’s take a look at the evidence for Rybelsus and weight loss.

What is Rybelsus?

Rybelsus is a prescription medication that contains the active ingredient, semaglutide. Semaglutide belongs to a group of medicines called GLP-1 receptor agonists. Essentially, it mimics a naturally-occurring hormone that’s produced in the gut. This hormone is triggered in response to food. It encourages the body to produce insulin and reduces the amount of glycogen secreted by the liver. The hormone slows the emptying of the stomach so, as a result, you’ll feel full quicker and for longer. It also acts on receptors in the brain to regulate appetite and food intake.

How do you take Rybelsus?

Rybelsus comes in tablet form. Many weight loss medications must be taken using an injectable pen so Rybelsus is a good alternative for people who have difficulties with injections.

Rybelsus contains various different doses of semaglutide. You should take the medication as directed by your health practitioner.

What is Rybelsus prescribed for?

Rybelsus is prescribed for type 2 diabetes as it’s proven to lower blood sugar. In a 6-month study on patients taking the medication for diabetes, they found a significant association between Rybelsus and weight loss, with participants losing an average of 8 pounds.

If you’re prescribed Rybelsus for weight loss then this is what’s known as ‘off-label’ prescribing. This means that the medication is prescribed for a purpose that’s different from that described in the licence. This happens when experts have noted the benefits of taking the medication for the alternative purpose, but the manufacturer hasn’t yet extended the licence. In the case of Rybelsus, the active ingredient, semaglutide, is already prescribed for weight loss under a different brand name and formulation.

Is Rybelsus effective for weight loss?

The active ingredient in Rybelsus, semaglutide, is already marketed for weight loss under the brand name, Wegovy. This medication was developed after clinical trials showed promising results for the role semaglutide plays in weight loss. A study that compared semaglutide with a placebo found that obese patients lost considerably more weight when taking the medication. Over the 68-week trial, the majority of participants lost over 10% of their body weight, with over half losing more than 15%.

In another clinical trial, weight loss results were compared among patients taking several different anti-obesity medications. Participants lost less weight taking these medications (which include phentermine, liraglutide, and naltrexone) when compared to participants in the study on semaglutide.

How do you take Rybelsus for weight loss?

Rybelsus helps you to make healthier choices and should be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Clinical trials on semaglutide have found that the drug reduces appetite which decreases food intake and leads to fewer cravings.

As well as following a healthy diet and exercise routine, getting enough sleep will help you to avoid weight gain.

Is Rybelsus safe?

Rybelsus has been approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes since 2019 but the active ingredient, semaglutide, was approved prior to this. Under the brand name, Ozempic, semaglutide was approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in 2017. Ozempic must be injected into the fatty tissue of a person’s stomach, leg, or arm. Rybelsus was developed as an oral alternative for people who have difficulties with injections. It’s currently the only way that you can take semaglutide orally.

There were extensive clinical trials on semaglutide before it was approved for public use. Semaglutide injections are already licenced for weight loss, under the brand name Wegovy. This is after extensive research showed promising results for the use of semaglutide for weight loss

Before receiving a prescription for Rybelsus, your suitability for the medication will be reviewed by a healthcare practitioner. You can talk to a clinician if you’re having persistent side effects, and they can advise on your treatment.

What are the side effects of Rybelsus?

Rybelsus may cause side effects. Most commonly, these include gastrointestinal disorders, including:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting 
  • Constipation

This is a common effect with most weight loss medication due to the nature of the treatment; the side effects tend to resolve with time, once your body is used to the medication. 

Diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to dehydration which is dangerous, especially if you have any kidney problems. Speak to your healthcare practitioner if you’re worried about dehydration.

More serious side effects of Rybelsus include:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Problems with vision in patients with diabetes
  • Low blood sugar
  • Serious allergic reactions

What’s the difference between Rybelsus and Ozempic?

Rybelsus and Ozempic both contain the same active ingredient, semaglutide. They’re marketed as a treatment for type 2 diabetes but both treatments may be prescribed ‘off-label’ for the long-term management of weight loss. The main difference between the two medications is the way in which they are taken. Rybelsus comes as an oral tablet and Ozempic is an injection that must be administered into the fatty tissue in your stomach, leg or arm. Rybelsus is a suitable alternative for people who have difficulties with injections.

The bottom line

Rybelsus is an oral medication that’s marketed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It contains the active ingredient, semaglutide, which has been shown to lead to weight loss in clinical trials. Rybelsus can be prescribed ‘off-label’ for the long-term treatment of obesity.