Ozempic shortage prompts doctors to be told to STOP prescribing drugs to patients who simply want to lose weight
- Semaglutide has been hailed as a “miracle” weight loss drug by celebrities.
- But the clamor to get it is fueling a national shortage, health officials say.
Doctors and pharmacists have been warned to stop prescribing diabetes drugs to people who simply want to lose weight.
Semaglutide has been hailed as a “miracle” weight loss drug by celebrities like Elon Musk and Jeremy Clarkson.
But health officials have warned that the clamor for it, and drugs like it, is fueling a national shortage, putting the lives of diabetics at risk.
Ozempic is available on the NHS as a treatment to control blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
In May, it was also approved for weight loss under the Wegovy brand, but has yet to launch in the UK due to supply issues.
Ozempic is available on the NHS as a treatment to control blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. In May, it was also approved for weight loss under the brand name Wegovy, but has yet to launch in the UK due to to supply problems.
Wegovy and Ozempic work by triggering the body to produce a hormone called GLP-1 that is naturally released from the intestines after meals.
The delay has led to a rise in ‘off-label’ prescribing, where drugs are issued for something other than their intended use, which is exacerbating the shortage.
It means diabetes patients are struggling to get essential medication, which authorities say can have “serious clinical implications”.
Yesterday, the Department of Health issued a national patient safety alert warning of shortages and urging all health care providers not to dispense obesity drugs.
It states: ‘Supply problems have been caused by an increase in demand for these products for licensed and off-label indications.
Off-label use of these agents for the treatment of obesity is strongly discouraged. Existing stock should be retained for use in patients with diabetes.
“This shortage has serious clinical implications for the management of patients with type 2 diabetes.”
The alert relates to a variety of drugs, known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1 RA) agonists, including Ozempic, Rybelsus, Trulicity and Bydureon.
The drugs work by hijacking the brain to suppress appetite and reduce calorie intake, resulting in substantial weight loss.
Tests of the Wegovy weekly prick found that those taking it lost about 12 percent of their body weight and cut their chances of type 2 diabetes by more than half.
Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical giant behind it and Ozempic, said it was still experiencing intermittent supply constraints due to “unprecedented levels of demand.”
Last night, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it was working with officials to ensure diabetes patients can access these drugs or “other clinically appropriate alternatives”.
Dr Laura Squire, from the MHRA, said: “Where there is a potential supply shortage of a medical product that may pose a risk to public health, we stand ready to use our regulatory processes to minimize those risks, if appropriate.”
“Each situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the most appropriate course of action.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We expect all healthcare service providers, whether NHS or private, and all those with prescribing responsibility, give due regard to national guidelines such as Alerts National Patient Safety and Drug Supply Notifications”.
‘The guidance is clear that these medicines should only be prescribed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, in order to protect the supply for patients with diabetes.
“Medications that are licensed solely to treat type 2 diabetes should not be routinely prescribed for weight loss.”
A Novo Nordisk spokesperson said: “We support the additional guidance issued to healthcare professionals and, in particular, echo the direction that the off-label use of diabetes medications for management is strongly discouraged. of obesity”.
‘We do not promote, suggest or encourage the off-label use or misuse of any of our medications.’