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On February 9, 2024, an Illinois woman filed a new Ozempic lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. She claims that after taking the medication, she suffered from gastroparesis, also known as stomach paralysis. She seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

Just a few days before this case was filed, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) ordered all federally filed Ozempic (semaglutide), Wegovy (semaglutide), and Mounjaro (tirzepatide) lawsuits consolidated in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for pre-trial proceedings.

Plaintiff Suffered from Dangerous Gastroparesis

According to her complaint, the plaintiff started using Ozempic to treat her diabetes in July 2021. As a result, she suffered from stomach paralysis and intestinal blockage, resulting in severe vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, dehydration, and stomach pain that required multiple emergency room visits.

Normally, muscles in the stomach and intestines help move food along the digestive tract. Gastroparesis—also called delayed stomach emptying—is a disorder that affects these muscles, slowing them down or causing them not to work at all. As a result, the stomach takes too long to empty its contents, which can cause several problems.

One is that the food may build up into a large mass. That typically causes nausea, vomiting, and even obstruction of the stomach, which prevents food from passing into the small intestine.

Other symptoms of gastroparesis may include bloating, abdominal pain, malnutrition, weight loss, and anorexia.

Ozempic Affects Digestive Muscles, Slowing Them Down

Ozempic belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 agonists. These drugs mimic the action of a natural hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1. GLP-1 is produced in the small intestine, where it helps digestion in a few ways:

  • Stimulates insulin secretion, which allows the body’s cells to take up glucose from food. This can also help lower blood sugar levels in diabetics.
  • Helps delay the emptying of the stomach, causing patients to feel fuller for longer.
  • Helps suppress glucagon, a hormone involved in hunger.

Drugs like Ozempic bind to natural GLP-1 receptors in the body, where they have similar effects as natural GLP-1. That means they help lower blood sugar levels and may encourage weight loss.

They also act on the muscles in the digestive system, slowing them down—that’s how they delay stomach emptying. But in some people, the effect can go too far, resulting in stomach paralysis.

Ozempic Affects Digestive Muscles, Slowing Them Down

Because of manufacturer Novo Nordisk’s extensive spending on advertising and promotion, Ozempic and other drugs like it (Wegovy, Mounjaro) have exploded in popularity—mainly because of their ability to help people lose weight.

In June 2023, The Washington Post reported that new prescriptions for Ozempic alone had surged by 140 percent from the prior year. Yet as early as 2010, scientific studies were warning about the drug’s ability to slow gastric emptying.

In 2016, a trial funded by Novo Nordisk found more gastrointestinal disorders in the semaglutide group than in the placebo group, including serious events such as intestinal obstruction. Other studies would follow, showing similar results.

Interestingly, people with diabetes—which is what Ozempic is FDA-approved to treat—are more likely to get gastroparesis than those in the general population. Yet Novo Nordisk failed to adequately warn of the risk, according to the plaintiff. Though the label lists nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and constipation as possible adverse reactions, gastroparesis is not mentioned at all.

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