Diabetes drug shortage affecting patients

Published: January 23, 2023 2:39 PM EST
Updated: January 23, 2023 4:09 PM EST

It’s been called the “skinny shot” and it is all the rage on social media.

Now, the demand for Ozempic, the injectable drug, is making it hard to get for people who need it to treat their diabetes.

When you type it into TikTok, you get the idea of its buzzworthiness.

Users invite you to follow their weight loss journey, claiming the drug approved for type 2 diabetes is the miracle medication for dropping pounds.

Naples Dr. Deborah Houk explains it’s part of a new class of diabetes treatments that is moving the needle for diabetes.

“Ozempic is a medication that mimics a normal occurring hormone in the body. That hormone is called glucagon-like peptide one,” Houk said. 

This prescription injectable regulates insulin, suppresses the appetite and slows digestion.

It is a game-changer for people who genuinely need it.

“The effects of Ozempic on patients with type two diabetes helps them in many ways, but the most important ways is that it decreases their risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,” Houk said. “It improves their outcomes for cardiac events. So they have less heart attacks when they’re on medications like Ozempic.”

The problem is once the weight loss benefit became widely known, the drug became harder to get. The Federal Drug Administration now includes it on its list of shortages.

The reason? The increased demand.

Joanne Neil, who has type 2 diabetes, was forced to go months without her prescription and it caused her blood sugar levels to spike.

“They started out at 6.9 before I started taking it and went down to 6.1, which is almost pre-diabetic and then it went up once I wasn’t able to get it. They’ve gone back up to 7,” Neil said.

Neil lost weight on Ozempic, but that was not important to her.

“I lost 22 pounds. It’s a great side effect of Ozempic, which is rare in a drug. But that’s not what it’s prescribed for,” she said.

It’s causing huge stress for patients and causing concern for doctors.

In addition to the shortage it created, off-label users may not be aware of its side effects.

“Which include anything from slight nausea to pancreatitis, which could have you ending up in the hospital,” Houk said. 

Doctors hope to curb the appetite for this drug to keep helping type 2 diabetic patients.

Since the drug is FDA-approved, people using it for weight loss can get the drug in an off-label use if their doctor prescribes it.

It’s not cheap, costing up to $1,000 a month.

The drug’s manufacturer said it’s working hard to increase supply.