Understanding the Gastrointestinal Side Effects of Prescription Weight Loss Medications

by | Jun 22, 2024 | Defective Drugs, Defective Product, Ozempic Lawsuits, Product Liability

Weight loss medications, often prescribed for individuals struggling with obesity or related health conditions, can be a powerful tool in the journey towards a healthier weight. However, like all medications, they come with potential side effects. One of the most common categories of side effects associated with these medications involves the gastrointestinal (GI) system. Understanding the side effects of prescription weight loss medications is crucial for patients and healthcare providers to manage and mitigate them effectively.

It is also important to remember that there may be more serious risks – and those risks may not be included on the warning label. One such example is that of Ozempic, a diabetes and weight loss medication currently making headlines for serious side effects. Ozempic has been linked to gastroparesis, pancreatitis, thyroid problems, and more.

Below, the harmful drug lawyers at Kherkher Garcia provide insight into the potential side effects of weight loss medications. Consumers who are harmed by dangerous or defective drugs, or who are not adequately informed of the risks, have rights.

Types of Prescription Weight Loss Medications

Before diving into the gastrointestinal side effects, it’s important to understand the types of prescription weight loss medications available. These medications generally fall into three main categories:

  • Appetite Suppressants: These drugs, such as phentermine and lorcaserin, work by affecting the brain’s hunger centers to reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness.
  • Lipase Inhibitors: Orlistat is the primary example in this category. It works by inhibiting the enzyme lipase, which reduces the absorption of dietary fat by approximately 30%.
  • GLP-1 Agonists: Medications like semaglutide (Ozempic), liraglutide (Victoza), and tirzepatide (mounjaro) mimic the action of the GLP-1 hormone, which slows gastric emptying and helps reduce appetite.

Each of these medications can affect the gastrointestinal system in different ways, leading to a variety of side effects.

Common Gastrointestinal Side Effects

Weight loss medications have a risk of side effects ranging from mild discomfort to serious, even life-threatening illness. Some of the common side effects include:

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are common side effects, particularly with GLP-1 agonists such as liraglutide and semaglutide. These medications slow gastric emptying, which can lead to a feeling of fullness and nausea. In some cases, this nausea can be severe enough to cause vomiting.


Diarrhea is another prevalent side effect, especially with lipase inhibitors like orlistat. Since orlistat works by preventing the absorption of fat, the unabsorbed fat remains in the intestines, leading to oily, loose stools and frequent bowel movements.


Conversely, appetite suppressants such as phentermine can lead to constipation. These medications can slow down the movement of the intestines, making it harder for stools to pass.

Flatulence and Bloating

Flatulence and bloating are commonly reported by patients taking orlistat. The unabsorbed fats undergo fermentation in the colon, leading to the production of gas.

Long-term Gastrointestinal Considerations

While the above side effects are commonly experienced in the short term, long-term use of weight loss medications can also have gastrointestinal implications.

Nutrient Malabsorption

Orlistat, due to its fat-blocking mechanism, can interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Long-term use without appropriate supplementation can lead to deficiencies in these essential nutrients.


Rapid weight loss, whether from medications or other means, can increase the risk of gallstone formation. The liver secretes extra cholesterol into the bile during periods of rapid weight loss, which can lead to the formation of gallstones.

Serious Gastrointestinal Side Effects

Patients have reported various adverse side effects associated with Ozempic, some of which are severe and potentially life-threatening. The most commonly cited side effects in these lawsuits include:

  • Gastroparesis: Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach muscles fail to properly move food into the small intestine. Gastroparesis can cause dehydration, malnutrition, bezoars (masses in the stomach), and blood sugar instability.
  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas, which can be a serious and potentially fatal condition.
  • Thyroid Cancer: Some studies have suggested a possible link between GLP-1 receptor agonists like Ozempic and an increased risk of thyroid tumors.
  • Kidney Problems: Including acute kidney injury and worsening of chronic kidney disease.
  • Severe Gastrointestinal Issues: Including severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and other complications.

Educating patients about the potential gastrointestinal side effects of weight loss medications is essential for their successful management. Patients should be encouraged to communicate openly with their healthcare providers about any side effects they experience. This allows for timely adjustments to their treatment plan, whether it involves dosage changes, dietary modifications, or the introduction of supportive medications.

Ozempic Lawsuits

Ozempic, a popular prescription medication used to manage type 2 diabetes, has recently been under legal scrutiny. The drug, which contains the active ingredient semaglutide, has also gained popularity for off-label use as a weight loss aid. However, its rise in prominence has been accompanied by an increasing number of lawsuits. These legal actions typically focus on adverse side effects and allegations of inadequate warnings by the manufacturer.

The specific allegations in the ongoing lawsuits against Ozempic include:

  • Failure to Warn: Accusations that Novo Nordisk did not adequately warn about the risks of pancreatitis, thyroid cancer, and other severe side effects.
  • Defective Design: Claims that the design of the drug is inherently flawed, making it unreasonably dangerous for use.
  • Negligence: Allegations that Novo Nordisk was negligent in the research, development, and marketing of Ozempic, leading to preventable harm to patients.
  • Fraud and Misrepresentation: Some lawsuits include claims that the company misrepresented the safety and efficacy of the drug, misleading patients and healthcare providers.

As of now, numerous lawsuits have been filed in various courts across the United States. These cases are at different stages of litigation, with some in the early stages of filing and discovery, while others are moving towards trial or settlement negotiations.

Potential Implications

The outcomes of these lawsuits could have significant implications for patients, healthcare providers, and the pharmaceutical industry at large.

For Patients

If the lawsuits result in significant settlements or verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs, patients who have suffered adverse effects may receive compensation for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages. Additionally, increased awareness of the risks associated with Ozempic could lead to more cautious use and better monitoring of side effects.

For Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers may become more vigilant in monitoring patients on Ozempic and other GLP-1 receptor agonists. They may also be more likely to discuss potential risks with their patients and consider alternative treatments when appropriate.

For the Pharmaceutical Industry

The lawsuits against Ozempic could lead to increased scrutiny and regulatory oversight of GLP-1 receptor agonists and other similar medications. Pharmaceutical companies might need to invest more in safety studies and transparent communication of risks. Additionally, there could be a push for stronger labeling requirements and post-marketing surveillance to detect adverse effects more promptly.

The ongoing lawsuits highlight the complex interplay between drug efficacy, patient safety, and pharmaceutical company responsibilities. While Ozempic has proven benefits for managing type 2 diabetes and aiding in weight loss, the reported adverse side effects and allegations of inadequate warnings underscore the importance of comprehensive risk communication and patient education. As these legal proceedings continue to unfold, they will likely influence future practices in drug development, marketing, and patient care, ultimately aiming to ensure that patients receive treatments that are both effective and safe.

When to Call a Lawyer for Medication Side Effects

Medication side effects can range from mild discomfort to severe, life-threatening conditions. While some side effects are known and expected, others may be unexpected and result from negligence or malpractice by pharmaceutical companies or healthcare providers. It is crucial to understand when these adverse effects warrant legal intervention.

First, if you experience severe side effects that were not adequately disclosed by the manufacturer or your healthcare provider, it may be time to consult a lawyer. Undisclosed side effects can indicate that the medication was not properly tested or that critical information was withheld. Additionally, if the side effects lead to significant health complications or require extensive medical treatment, legal action might be necessary to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.

Second, consider calling a lawyer if you suspect that your healthcare provider prescribed a medication without considering known risks or your medical history. This could constitute medical negligence, particularly if alternative treatments were available. Similarly, if a medication was recalled due to safety concerns and you suffered harm before the recall was issued, a lawyer can help you navigate the process of seeking compensation.

In any case, documenting your symptoms, treatments, and communication with healthcare providers is essential. A lawyer specializing in pharmaceutical or medical malpractice can assess your situation, guide you through your legal options, and help ensure that you receive fair compensation for the harm suffered due to medication side effects.

Free Harmful Drug Consultation

If you are suffering the effects of prescription weight loss medications, a free consultation can help you understand your options. The harmful drug lawyers at Kherkher Garcia can investigate your situation and injuries, and determine if you are eligible to pursue compensation. Our lawyers have been helping injury victims obtain justice for more than 30 years.

To start your free harmful drug consultation, call us at 713-333-1030, or submit our online contact form.

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Jesus Garcia

Jesus Garcia

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Jesus Garcia. Jesus has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 20 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force of nature in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road. Abogado Jesus Garcia is bilingual and passionate about being the voice in the courtroom for the spanish speaking community here in Houston, across the state of Texas, and throughout the Nation.

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