Senior citizens and GLP1 Receptor Agonists

Senior citizens and GLP1 Receptor Agonists
Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

Senior citizens are adopting and starting to use GLP1 Receptor Agonists in droves.

Don't know what a GLP1 Receptor Agonist is, or how drugs like Ozempic, Mounjaro, Wegovy, or Zepbound work?

Check out our quick explainer

Based on data from 2023, over 1 in 4 people who were on Ozempic were senior citizens. The prescribing trends are also up and to the right across all types of GLP1s:

The National Council on Aging also has a helpful explainer article on coverage for medicare:

The National Council on Aging

Didn't know that Medicare covered the use of GLP1 Receptor Agonists like Ozempic, Wegovy and others? Well it's relative new, as many are discovering this year:

Medicare plans can now cover the weight-loss drug Wegovy
Private Medicare plans that pay for prescription drugs can now cover obesity medicine Wegovy, if it’s prescribed to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people at high risk.

The change in coverage actually happened last year, in 2023 (the bill was put forth in 2021):

Reps. Wenstrup and Ruiz Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Cover Obesity Treatment in Medicare

You can also directly read about the bill on

GLP1s as a key part of demographic shift

Most of the world is undergoing a large shift in demographics – the aging of the "baby boomer" generation, and a massive wave of new entrants to the medicare and and elder care systems.

Moderating and handling glucose has long been associated with people who live longer:

Metabolic changes in aging humans: current evidence and therapeutic strategies
Aging and metabolism are inextricably linked, and many age-related changes in body composition, including increased central adiposity and sarcopenia, have underpinnings in fundamental aging processes. These age-related changes are further exacerbated…

And in general managing and controlling weight for senior citizens is often key to alleviating some of the burdens in taking care of them in to old(er) age.

GLP1 receptor agonists like Ozempic and Wegovy are instrumental to both of these goals – making it easier for senior citizens to manage their weight and also specifically they glycemic conditions.

With the expansions to medicare, GLP1 is going to see a huge growth in usage, and purchasing that only seems to have just become. With the already increasingly visible role of shortages and lack of availability generally, it's clear that higher prices and more competition/new entrants into the GLP1 market are the only way forward.

Risks for seniors on GLP1s

Since any rapid weight loss regimen can cause loss of muscle mass (something that seniors desperately need to hold on to), GLP1s might be a mixed blessing and curse for those who are lowering activity later in life.

Ozempic for People Over 65: Risks, Benefits, and Side Effects
GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro can pose greater risks for people over 65 and older. Here’s why and what you can do about it.

One of the more important bits is this:

Jill Barat, Pharm.D., a licensed pharmacist with Pharmedico Pharmacy, added, “Muscle loss isn’t a good thing for anyone, but this can be especially dangerous for older people as it may put them at higher risk of falls which can lead to broken bones.”

Clearly, GLP1s are not a silver bullet here either.

There is a very open question of just how much weight loss will improve the calculus of aging – where as clearly carrying more weight into end of life is not ideal, there are some risks to carrying too little weight (or rather the effects of too little of that weight being muscle).