- An increasing number of women with PCOS are taking medications like Mounjaro and Ozempic.
- Women with PCOS told Insider that Mounjaro has helped them have regular menstrual cycles and lose weight.
- Eventually these drugs could be the “gold standard” for treating PCOS, according to Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen.
When Branneisha Cooper was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common condition that affects one in 10 women of childbearing age, she figured medications might help with her irregular periods, fatigue, and increased of weight. It took more than a decade for her to find relief from her symptoms.
Following her diagnosis, the 26-year-old from Texas underwent birth control to regulate her periods. She also started taking metformin, a type 2 diabetes drug given off-label to curb insulin resistance in women with PCOS. Metformin made her nauseous, so she went back and forth on the drug repeatedly. After trying and failing over the years to lose weight on her own, she was despondent.
Cooper said she was always vulnerable and honest about medical appointments. “Doctors always ask, well, how’s your diet? Are you exercising? Are you practicing calories in versus calories out? And so I was like, ‘OK, before you say it, yeah, I’ve done it all. I’ve tried everything along with metformin and it doesn’t work,” Cooper said.
His doctor suggested Mounjaro, a new drug also used to treat type 2 diabetes that promised to be more effective than metformin at helping Cooper control his food cravings. Cooper started taking the injectable drug in November 2022. Since then, he’s lost 45 pounds in seven months, his periods have become regular and he has more energy, he says.
Like Cooper, a growing number of women with PCOS have started using medications like Mounjaro and Ozempic. These drugs, approved by the FDA for type 2 diabetes, have recently gained popularity as powerful weight-loss treatments. And because weight loss can help with PCOS symptoms, medications can bring relief to a group of people often frustrated by a lack of treatment options.
Semaglutide, the generic name for Ozempic, is also sold under the brand name Wegovy for weight loss.
Why drugs like Mounjaro and Ozempic can help women with PCOS
PCOS is a hormonal condition that can lead to high levels of androgens such as testosterone, which can result in irregular periods, ovarian cysts, facial hair and infertility, among other symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. People with the condition tend to have insulin resistance, a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can also trigger high testosterone levels and lead to weight gain.
“The main problem with PCOS is not cysts in the ovaries. The name is misleading. The main problem with PCOS is hyperandrogenism, or high testosterone levels, and insulin resistance,” said Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen, an endocrinologist in New York. .
Both Ozempic, a brand name for the drug semaglutide, and Mounjaro, the brand name for the drug tirzepatide, reduces appetite and helps patients feel fuller longer. They also tend to end cravings for carbohydrates, sugar, and high-fat foods.
“We know that PCOS and weight go hand in hand, so more weight, worse PCOS symptoms, less weight, fewer PCOS symptoms in most patients. Helping with weight loss indirectly helps with PCOS symptoms,” she said Salas-Whalen.
Ozempic and Mounjaro are not wonder drugs; they can cause side effects, including gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and diarrhea. But for PCOS patients who’ve tried everything else, it may be worth it.
Eventually, mimetic incretins from the drug class that Ozempic and Mounjaro are part of should become the “gold standard” for PCOS, Salas-Whalen said.
Symptoms of PCOS include weight gain, acne, and facial hair growth
Kelsey knew something was wrong with her body since she had her first period at age 15 and her period was irregular. Her doctor put her on birth control, which helped regulate her periods, but when she decided to have a baby at age 22, Kelsey had to stop the drug.
After four months without periods, Kelsey went back to the doctor. She was gaining weight, she had facial hair growth and she was getting acne.
It was then that Kelsey, now 32 and calling himself anonymously, was diagnosed with PCOS. A doctor prescribed metformin. She did nothing to improve her symptoms.
Although she was able to have three children with the help of medication, the irregular periods, acne, and hair growth continued. Kelsey weighed 165 pounds when she graduated high school; after the birth of her third child, she weighed 250 pounds.
Launching Mounjaro changed everything
The tipping point came when Kelsey’s doctor advised her to stay on birth control until menopause to regulate her periods. “Here we were 10 years after my PCOS diagnosis and the protocol for women with PCOS was exactly the same,” she said. “I was losing grip on my weight and thought I needed to do something else.”
Kelsey got an off-label prescription for Mounjaro through an obesity medicine telehealth service in September 2022 after a friend with PCOS told her Ozempic had helped her get back into regular cycles and lose weight. The telehealth service recommended Mounjaro because of its “higher success rate,” she said.
Since then, she has lost more than 60 pounds. The “food noise” in her head has dissipated and she no longer spends her time thinking about what she’s going to eat next.
“I have a lot more room to focus on my kids or focus on my job, or focus on the things I want to do,” she said.
Weight loss wasn’t the only benefit for Kelsey. “The best part for me, the part that’s really worth it, is that my PCOS symptoms are almost completely reversed. My periods have been regular since the second month. My hair growth is much lower, my acne is much lower,” she said.
Like many people with PCOS, Cooper feared she would have trouble conceiving children due to her irregular periods. He’s put the idea of children in the back of his mind, assuming it might not be possible. Now that he’s having normal periods, he’s revisiting the possibility.
“It was unbelievable. I can’t believe it,” he said.
Ozempic and Mounjaro are long-term treatments
Drugs like Ozempic are meant to be a “chronic treatment” for weight gain, Dr. Martin Lange, executive vice president of development at Novo Nordisk, previously told Insider. Most patients regain lost weight if they stop taking medications; presumably, that means your PCOS symptoms will return as well.
Cooper, who is documenting his journey with Mounjaro on TikTok, is comfortable staying on the drug long-term to keep his symptoms from returning; her doctor told her that it probably would.
Kelsey plans to continue taking the drug for the next few years, eventually reducing to a maintenance dose when she reaches a weight she’s comfortable with.
“PCOS ruled my life for 10 years. This is not a decision I made lightly. It was not a sudden decision that I decided to continue with for the rest of my life. In the end it was all about quality of life ,” Kelsey said.
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