Diabetes drug in demand due to side effect of weight loss

Butler County – An ongoing shortage of Ozempic, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, is causing complications for people who cannot access the drug due to high demand.

Doctors speculate that off-label use of the drug for weight loss — promoted by socialites and celebrities who admit to taking Ozempic or other semaglutide drugs such as Wegovy — exacerbated the shortage.

“It's been going on for over a month now,” said Dr. Miguel Parrillo of the Oakwood Bulls Family Diabetes Center. “The shortage is specific to high doses of Ozempic and has grown to affect all doses.”

In response to drug shortages, doctors prescribe lower doses to match what pharmacies have in stock before switching patients to other drugs in the same class.

“All of these once-weekly injections are somewhat in short supply because they're off-label for treating non-diabetes-related obesity,” Parilo said.

When a prescriber uses a drug for an indication other than the FDA-approved indication, it's considered off-label use, Parilo said. Ozempic has FDA approval for type 2 diabetes, and another semaglutide drug, Wegovy, has FDA approval for obesity. Wegovy is the same compound as Ozempic, but a different version of the drug.

“Wegovy is very free to use. If there is more demand than demand, people start using Ozempic. Ozempic then becomes more than demand, and then we get into the situation we are in now,” Parilo said.

Manufacturer Novo Nordisk expects full supplies of Ozempic to resume by mid-March, according to the FDA's drug shortage database. Currently, local residents using Ozempic have to adapt by switching to a different drug, visiting multiple pharmacies, or not using the drug.

“We do suspect that some of these drugs are being overprescribed for weight loss,” said Justin Coby, pharmacist and director of pharmacy at Cedar Care Village Pharmacy. For three months, we’ve been trying to keep our inventory in stock. We’ve had patients who have had to go; we’ve had patients who have had to switch to a different product.”

For patients who switch to another drug, this sometimes results in a shortage of the new drug.

Parilo said using Ozempic inconvenienced his patients and affected their ability to manage their type 2 diabetes.

“We had to find alternative treatments. We sometimes had to use lower doses of Ozempic, and what happened during that time was that diabetes control was affected. Blood sugar measurements and the weight benefits they were experiencing, they lost some of the benefits, sometimes We have no acceptable alternative,” Parilo said.

If patients had to stop taking their medication, their diabetes range would suffer. Switching to another option also carries the risk that the patient will not tolerate the new drug or that the drug will not work as well.

The drug semaglutide has been found to work best in controlling blood sugar, Coby said. If the patient's A1C test (a blood test that provides average blood sugar levels, or blood sugar information, over a 90-day period) remains high, vision loss or loss of part of a limb may result due to poor blood flow (volume.

“Once the word gets out and the medical community understands, I think it will help because we're going to slow down prescribing,” Bryant said. Prices for the drug are not expected to rise because drugmakers set prices with insurers at the beginning of the year, he said.

“People with more affordable generics can replace this drug, so people with type 2 diabetes aren't completely left out in the cold,” Bryant said. “However…it's a gap, especially for the marginalized in our country That’s a gap for those in the population who don’t have access to the drug, whereas celebrities can get the drug if you don’t actually have type 2 diabetes.”

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