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'My symptoms are almost reversed': Mounjaro and Ozempic could be game-changing drugs for women with PCOS

Ariel Schwartz   

'My symptoms are almost reversed': Mounjaro and Ozempic could be game-changing drugs for women with PCOS
  • An increasing number of women with PCOS are taking drugs like Mounjaro and Ozempic.
  • Women with PCOS told Insider that Mounjaro helped them have regular menstrual cycles and lose weight.

When Branneisha Cooper was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a common condition that affects one in 10 women of childbearing age, she thought medication might help with her irregular periods, fatigue, and weight gain. It took over a decade before she found any sort of symptom relief.

After her diagnosis, the 26 year-old from Texas was put on birth control to regulate her period. She also started taking metformin, a drug for type 2 diabetes given off-label to curb insulin resistance in women with PCOS. The metformin made her nauseous, so she went off and on the drug repeatedly. After trying and failing over the years to lose weight on her own, she was discouraged.

Cooper said she was always vulnerable and honest at medical appointments. "Doctors always ask, well, how's your diet? Are you working out? Are you practicing calories in versus calories out? And so I was like, 'OK, before you say that, yes, I've done it all. I've tried everything along with the metformin, and it's not working,'" Cooper said.

Her doctor suggested Mounjaro, a newer drug also used to treat type 2 diabetes that promised to be more effective than metformin in helping Cooper control her food cravings. Cooper started taking the injectable medication in November 2022. Since then, she's lost 45 pounds in seven months, her menstrual cycle has become regular, and she has more energy she says.

Like Cooper, an increasing number of women with PCOS have begun using medications like Mounjaro and Ozempic. These drugs, which are FDA-approved for type 2 diabetes, have recently gained traction as powerful weight-loss treatments. And since weight loss can help with PCOS symptoms, the drugs may bring relief to a group of people often left frustrated by their 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 like 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 elevated 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 levels of testosterone, and insulin resistance," said Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen, an endocrinologist in New York.

Both Ozempic, one brand name for the drug semaglutide, and Mounjaro, the brand name for the drug tirzepatide, curb appetite and help patients to feel full for longer. They also tend to put a stop to cravings for carbs, sugar, and high-fat foods.

"We know PCOS and weight go hand in hand, so more weight, worse symptoms of PCOS, less weight, fewer symptoms of PCOS in the majority of patients. Helping with weight loss indirectly helps with PCOS symptoms," Salas-Whalen said.

Ozempic and Mounjaro aren't miracle drugs; they may cause side effects, including gastrointestinal issues like nausea and diarrhea. But for PCOS patients who have tried everything else, it can be worth it.

Eventually, incretin mimetics — the drug class that Ozempic and Mounjaro are a part of — should become the "gold standard" for PCOS, Salas-Whalen said.

PCOS symptoms include weight gain, acne, and facial hair growth

Kelsey knew something was wrong with her body from the time she got her first period at age 15, and her cycle was irregular. Her doctor put her on birth control, which helped regulate her period, but when she decided to have a baby at age 22, Kelsey had to get off the medication.

After not having a period for four months, Kelsey went back to the doctor. She'd been gaining weight, had facial hair growth, and was getting acne.

That's when Kelsey, now 32 and going by her first name for anonymity, was diagnosed with PCOS. A doctor prescribed her metformin. It did nothing to ameliorate her symptoms.

While she was able to have three children with the help of medication, the irregular periods, acne, and hair growth continued. Kelsey was 165 pounds when she graduated high school; after her third child was born, she was 250 pounds.

Starting Mounjaro changed everything

The tipping point came when Kelsey's doctor recommended she 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 my grip on my weight, and I thought I had 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 regain a regular cycle and lose weight. The telehealth service recommended Mounjaro because of its "higher percentage of success," she said.

Since then, she's lost over 60 pounds. The "food noise" in her head has dissipated, and she no longer spends her time thinking about what she'll eat next.

"I have so much more room to focus on my kids or focus on my work, or focus on things that I want to be doing," she said.

Weight loss hasn't been the only benefit for Kelsey. "The best part for me, the part that really makes it all worth it, is that my PCOS symptoms are almost completely reversed. My cycles 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 worried she would have trouble conceiving children because of her irregular periods. She put the idea of children in the back of her mind, assuming it might not be possible. Now that she's getting normal periods, she's revisiting the possibility.

"It's been incredible. I can't believe it," she said.

Ozempic and Mounjaro are long-term treatments

Drugs like Ozempic are meant to be a "chronic treatment" for weight gain, Dr. Martin Lange, Novo Nordisk's executive vice president for development, previously told Insider. Most patients regain the weight they've lost if they go off the drugs; presumably, that means PCOS symptoms would return as well.

Cooper, who is documenting her journey with Mounjaro on TikTok, is comfortable staying on the drug for the long-haul to prevent her symptoms from returning; her doctor told her that would likely be the case.

Kelsey plans to remain on the drug for the next several years, eventually tapering down to a maintenance dose when she reaches a weight where she's comfortable.

"PCOS ruled my life for 10 years. This is not a decision that's made lightly. It's not a spur of the moment decision where I decided to go on it for the rest of my life. Ultimately it came down to quality of life," Kelsey said.

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