Type 2 diabetes patients struggle to find Ozempic as demand rises for its weight loss properties – KIRO 7 News Seattle

Ozempic, a drug that improves blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes, is becoming harder to find because of its weight-loss properties.

KIRO 7's Jesse Jones spoke with Becca DeShaw, a type 2 diabetic from Seattle, who said the miracle drug increased her body's insulin production better than ever, but it took a miracle to find it.

“I called five different pharmacies in the area; nobody had it,” DeShaw said. “There's usually a pharmacy here or there, and it changes every week. Sometimes I know what that pharmacy is; sometimes, I don't. But it's a moving target.”

Ozempic is hard to find because it works so well for weight loss and spreading its success through Tik Tok is gaining popularity among users.

Now, so many doctors are prescribing the drug that people with type 2 diabetes like DeShaw are affected.

“I understand the difficulty when someone is trying to lose weight,” DeShaw said. “I understand the craving. But if you're taking it to lose weight and someone else can't make it live, that's not kind.”

Some patients are looking to Canada for the drug, said Dr. Irl Hirsch, a professor at the Washington University School of Medicine's Diabetes Institute.

“What's happening now because of the Americans going to British Columbia, now they've run out, they've got a problem,” Hirsch said. “So we've created an international problem here.”

But should people take Ozempic just for weight loss?

“The short answer is it's actually FDA-approved,” Hirsch said. “It's the same drug, but it's called Wegovy. It's just a higher dose of Ozempic. So there's no reason you can't use that drug for weight loss. But the reality is most insurance won't cover it.”

Some doctors prescribe Ozempic off-label for weight loss; people pay up to $1,000 a month for it without insurance coverage.

Companies aren't prepared for the flood of people willing to pay cash to lose weight, Hirsch said.

According to Hirsch, 80 percent of people who take Ozempic lose weight.

“For those who did lose weight, the amount of weight loss was very variable,” Hirsch said. “We have patients who have lost 5 pounds and 10 pounds. We have patients who have lost 40 pounds, 50 pounds and 60 pounds. Ozempic’s maker, Novo Nordisk, says some of its drug in larger doses is already on the market. Smaller companies are currently experiencing intermittent supply disruptions.”

DeShaw needed production of Ozempic to move forward quickly because if she didn't get it there could be consequences, not just for her but for millions of other diabetics.

“In my opinion, there should be some way to balance the needs of people who really need to lose weight without putting me and other people like me at a disadvantage,” Deshaw said.

Ozempic released a statement about using the drug for weight loss:

“While we recognize that some healthcare providers may prescribe Ozempic® for patients with weight loss goals, Novo Nordisk does not advocate, recommend or encourage off-label use of our medicines and is committed to full compliance with all Applicable U.S. laws and regulations governing the promotion of our products,” the company said.

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