Rybelsus for Weight Loss: Does It Work?

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
January 23, 2023

Key takeaways

  • Rybelsus, a type of drug known as a GLP-1 agonist, is FDA-approved for treating type 2 diabetes mellitus. It reduces blood glucose by stimulating insulin secretion and lowering glucagon secretion.

  • While weight loss may occur while taking Rybelsus, this drug is not FDA-approved for weight loss.

  • Some doctors may prescribe Rybelsus “off-label” for weight loss. Talk to your doctor if you’re seeking a safe, effective way to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

A hormone called insulin helps your body manage its blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the body develops resistance to insulin and needs more insulin. This leads to elevated blood sugar.

Over time, type 2 diabetes can increase a person’s risk for serious medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage. If you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor may recommend a medication to help your body regulate your blood sugar levels. One such medication for type 2 diabetes is Rybelsus. 

When coupled with exercise and a healthy diet, Rybelsus can be effective in helping people manage type 2 diabetes. It may also promote weight loss because of the way it affects people’s appetites. That said, Rybelsus does not have an indication for weight loss. 

What is Rybelsus (Semaglutide)?

Your body naturally produces a compound called glucagon-like-peptide 1 (GLP-1) that helps stimulate insulin production and, in turn, regulates blood sugar levels. GLP-1 also works to slow stomach emptying, which can keep appetite in check. 

Rybelsus contains an active ingredient called semaglutide that acts like GLP-1 in the body. Semaglutide can help lower blood sugar levels, regulating type 2 diabetes. Semaglutide can also help people reach and maintain a healthy weight because of how it works in the body. 

Several forms of semaglutide are available on the market. While most are prescribed as injectable medications, Rybelsus is taken by mouth. People typically start with a 3 mg dosage strength and then increase it to 7 mg after 30 days. Rybelsus is usually taken on an empty stomach once a day.

Uses

Rybelsus is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. It works most effectively, along with a healthy diet and exercise routine. While Rybelsus may also help promote weight loss, it’s not FDA-approved as a weight loss drug. It’s also not approved for use in people with type 1 diabetes mellitus. 

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Can Rybelsus Be Prescribed for Weight Loss?

Rybelsus is not approved by the FDA to be prescribed for weight loss. That said, some doctors may prescribe Rybelsus off-label for weight loss purposes. Your health care team can help you figure out if Rybelsus is a safe and helpful choice for you. If not, there are many other lifestyle changes, treatments, and medications that can promote a healthy weight. 

Does Rybelsus Help You Lose Weight?

Rybelsus can decrease a person’s appetite, which may, in turn, result in weight loss. Some research suggests that patients with type 2 diabetes have lost weight while taking the drug. 

According to studies reviewed by the FDA, people who took the lowest dose of Rybelsus lost about five pounds over the course of six months. Notably, some people in the study gained weight. 

It’s important to keep in mind that doctors encourage people who take Rybelsus to eat nutritiously and exercise. These factors may be influential in helping people lose weight. Rybelsus can also cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting, which may result in weight loss. 

If you’re interested in taking Rybelsus for weight loss, speak to a doctor. A healthcare professional can help you determine the best method for managing your weight.

Alternatives for Rybelsus for Weight Loss

Doctors may recommend medication for people who can’t lose enough weight with diet and exercise alone. Below are two common medications used for weight loss and how they measure up against Rybelsus. 

Rybelsus vs Metformin

Metformin is part of a drug class called biguanides. It can help control blood sugar by decreasing the amount of glucose you absorb after eating and by preventing the liver from making too much glucose. 

Metformin, like Rybelsus, can lead to weight loss because of the way it affects the body. 

Studies suggest metformin can help overweight and obese people with insulin resistance lose weight. It can also cause weight loss in those who are sensitive to insulin. 

However, metformin is not a weight-loss drug. Instead, it’s used to treat conditions that affect blood sugar, such as type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome

Rybelsus vs. Ozempic

Ozempic, like Rybelsus, contains semaglutide as its active ingredient. It works by controlling blood sugar levels and slowing down digestion. But Ozempic is not an oral medication; it is an injectable. 

The FDA currently approves Ozempic for treating type 2 diabetes. It may lead to weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes, but it’s usually not prescribed for weight loss alone. 

Rybelsus Side Effects

Like any other drug, Rybelsus can cause side effects that range from mild to severe. 

Mild side effects of Rybelsus

Some of the most common mild side effects of Rybelsus include: 

If you’re taking Rybelsus and you experience any of these side effects, speak to your prescribing doctor. It’s possible you may need to adjust your dosage or try a different medication.

Serious side effects of Rybelsus

Rarely, Rybelsus can cause serious side effects, such as: 

  • Low blood sugar
  • Vision changes
  • Kidney problems 
  • Inflammation in the pancreas
  • Allergic reaction 
  • Thyroid cancer

Seek emergency medical care right away if you experience any of these severe side effects while taking Rybelsus. 

Rybelsus Interactions

Before prescribing you Rybelsus, your doctor will ask about any other medications you are taking. Certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs may cause negative interactions. Avoid taking any of the below medications if you take Rybelsus: 

  • Cyclosporine, an immunosuppressive drug
  • Diabetes medications, such as semaglutide, sulfonylurea drugs, or insulin 
  • Levothyroxine used to treat thyroid disorders
  • Phenytoin, a seizure medication 
  • Warfarin, a blood thinner

In general, it’s a good idea to take Rybelsus at least a half hour prior to taking any other medications by mouth. If you take other drugs too soon, Rybelsus may not work as effectively. 

Other Medications for Diabetes

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to potentially serious medical complications. Along with lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and exercise, your doctor may recommend you take a prescription medication to treat your diabetes. 

Medications for type 2 diabetes work by lowering your blood sugar. But drugs can work in different ways. The most common drug classes for diabetes include: 

Oral medications for diabetes

  • Meglitinides, which work by causing the pancreas to release insulin 
  • Dipeptidyl-peptidase 4 (DPP-4) inhibitors, which trigger the release of insulin when a person’s blood sugar increases
  • Sulfonylureas, which also work by causing the pancreas to release insulin
  • Sodium-glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, which prevent the kidneys from taking in too much sugar
  • Biguanides, which prevent the liver from releasing too much sugar and help the cells become more sensitive to insulin
  • Thiazolidinediones, which work similarly to biguanides
  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, which slow down the body’s process of breaking down certain sugar

Injectable medications for diabetes

  • GLP-1 receptor agonists, which increase the release of insulin when blood sugar increases
  • Amylin mimetics, which, when used in tandem with insulin shots, slow down the rate at which food moves through the stomach 

If you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor can help you determine the best medication or combination of drugs to treat your condition, whether it is a drug you should take orally or through an injection. 

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Cost of Rybelsus

The cost of Rybelsus depends on several factors, such as your pharmacy, dosage strength, and whether you have medical insurance. It’s often cheaper to purchase medication using health insurance. Without insurance, thirty Rybelsus tablets may cost nearly $1000. 

It’s also important to note that there’s currently no generic form of Rybelsus. Generic medications work the same as their brand-name versions but are often less expensive.  

If your doctor prescribes Rybelsus and your insurance won’t cover your prescription, you can check the manufacturer’s website for coupons or other savings options. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly does Rybelsus work for weight loss?
Rybelsus is a drug approved by the FDA for treating type 2 diabetes. Because of the way it affects appetite, and some of its possible side effects, it may result in weight loss. If you want to lose weight, it’s important to consult your doctor about the safest way to reach a healthier weight.
Will Rybelsus help me lose weight?
Rybelsus can reduce a person’s appetite, which may lead to weight loss in some people. That said, it’s currently FDA-approved only for treating type 2 diabetes, and not for weight loss. Talk to your doctor if you need help losing weight or are interested in medications that can help with weight loss.
Does Rybelsus cause weight loss like Ozempic?
It’s possible that Rybelsus can lead to weight loss like other semaglutide medications because it controls blood sugar and reduces appetite. However, Rybelsus is not presently approved by the FDA for weight loss. Your doctor can help you decide on the best method or treatment for you if you’re interested in losing weight.
What does Rybelsus do to your stomach?
The active ingredient in Rybelsus, semaglutide, mimics a natural compound that keeps blood sugar levels in check and slows down digestion. Slower digestion can lead to decreased appetite, which may result in weight loss in some people. Rybelsus can also cause side effects such as nausea, constipation, and diarrhea. It’s best to speak to your doctor if you want to learn more about Rybelsus and its effects on the body.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.

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