Reports

    Has China caught the Ozempic frenzy?

    In China, Ozempic's off-label use for weight loss, popularized by elites and linked to Elon Musk, reignites debate on beauty standards.
    In China, demand for Ozempic, also known by its generic name Semaglutide, has skyrocketed. Image: Instagram
      Published   in Lifestyle

    What happened

    In China, demand for Ozempic, also known by its generic name Semaglutide, has skyrocketed. Although it is officially approved solely for diabetes treatment, its widespread off-label use has captivated the nation's elite, with reports highlighting its popularity among the affluent as a top choice for weight management.

    In China, Ozempic is often referred to as “the internet celebrity weight loss drug” (网红减肥针). It’s frequently linked to Elon Musk who is a confirmed user of the drug and a prominent figure in China. Ozempic is rumored to be used by several well-known livestreamers, though these claims remain unverified.

    As reported by its producer, the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, Ozempic generated revenue of $44 million in China within the first nine months following its April 2021 debut. By the subsequent year, sales in the nation surged dramatically, exceeding seven times the initial figures to reach $316 million.

    Ozempic generated revenue of $44 million in China within nine months of its April 2021 debut. Image: Shutterstock
    Ozempic generated revenue of $44 million in China within nine months of its April 2021 debut. Image: Shutterstock

    In February 2023, the buzz on social media reached such heights that Xiaohongshu took significant action by removing over 5,000 posts that detailed weight loss journeys attributed to Ozempic.

    The Jing Take

    The Ozempic frenzy reflects broader societal trends in China, where the pursuit of an ideal body often takes precedence over health and well-being. This has sparked a debate about the pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards and the lengths to which individuals will go to to achieve them.

    In China, the societal pressure for women to maintain a slender figure often reaches extreme levels. In 2020, the “earphone waist challenge” became popular. The trend challenged women to demonstrate their slimness by circling their waists with earphones as a benchmark of thinness.

    In 2021, platforms such as Xiaohongshu and Weibo, which are akin to Instagram and Twitter in China, saw an influx of selfies featuring young women in fitting rooms, donning children-sized T-shirts from Uniqlo. The hashtag "adults trying on Uniqlo children's clothes" attracted over 680 million views on Weibo underscoring the ongoing intense focus on body image and thinness within Chinese culture.

    The market for weight loss drugs in China, where more than 50% of adults classified as overweight, is expected to boom. Both Western and Chinese drugmakers are vying for market share.

    Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Ozempic, has applied to expand the drug's use in China, potentially for weight loss, signaling a further increase in demand. At the same time, Chinese firms are racing to develop low-cost generic versions, potentially flooding the market with alternatives.

    The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.






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