Ozempic shortage to last until 2024 as drugmaker urges weight-loss supplies cap

Ozempic’s maker said it expects the current shortage of the diabetes drug to continue in 2024 as it has called for a reduction in off-label prescriptions for weight-loss treatment.

Ozempic, a brand name for the drug semaglutide, was introduced in the UK four years ago to help type 2 diabetics manage their blood glucose levels.

Although the drug is only officially licensed for the treatment of diabetes, it has increasingly been prescribed off-label for weight loss, gaining popularity with celebrities, social media influencers and politicians including Boris Johnson.

Doctors may prescribe a drug off-label if they are convinced of its effectiveness in treating a condition, even if it is not licensed for that specific purpose. Online pharmacies have played a major role in the prescribing and off-label sale of Ozempic.

The drug mimics a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is released after you eat. This makes people feel full, which means they eat less and lose weight.

A recent study found that people who were given the drug as part of a weight-loss program saw their weight drop an average of 12% after 68 weeks.

However, Ozempic’s increased demand has left its sole manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, struggling to keep up with supply. As a result, pharmacists have been unable to meet primary care physician prescriptions, putting diabetics at risk.

The makers of Ozempic Novo Nordisk have told me it is experiencing intermittent supply constraints of the drug due to unprecedented levels of demand (Photo: Florian Gaertner/Getty)

The Danish company said I who expects intermittent supply of Ozempic to continue into the UK next year, adding it is working with authorities to discourage the prescribing of non-brand products.

A Novo Nordisk spokesperson said: Ensuring a continuous supply that meets the needs of patients and the NHS is of the utmost importance to Novo Nordisk. The situation is evolving, but we expect intermittent supply of Ozempic (semaglutide) to continue into 2024 in the UK.

We are in constant dialogue with the Department of Health and are working together to keep healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, up to date with the latest guidance.

We are also working closely with relevant authorities to discourage off-label use of our medicines.

As part of this, the Department of Health is sending communications about the status of our shortages and the appropriate and responsible use of our medicines to healthcare professionals.

The company said the shortage was due to unprecedented levels of demand.

While we have made significant efforts to increase production, the level of demand has impacted our supply of Ozempic, the spokesman added. We run our factories 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have invested in opening new production lines and facilities. We are working to remedy the shortage as soon as possible.

Diabetes UK has expressed concern that patients with repeat prescriptions are affected by the supply issues, despite earlier assurances they would be protected.

Frontline pharmacists have described the situation as a complete disaster, with some local health authorities being forced to prescribe alternative medicines for diabetic patients.

A 66-year-old woman said it I over the past week, he has had to regularly call up to 30 pharmacies to find one where Ozempic is available, after suffering a near-fatal reaction to alternative drugs.

This was stated by Leyla Hannbeck, managing director of the Association of Independent Pharmacies I that he expects the shortage to continue into the next year unless the trend of prescribing the weight-loss drug changes.

He said: I think the shortage is likely to continue into 2024 if the current trend around the world for this product continues.

We know that it typically takes longer to manufacture products now than it did before the pandemic. This, combined with the high demand, means that Ozempic will not be available for some time.

Novo Nordisk needs to provide pharmacists with a realistic timetable of when shortages will end, Hannbeck said, so they can manage patient expectations.

This image provided by Novo Nordisk in January 2023 shows the packaging of the company's Wegovy drug.  Children struggling with obesity should be evaluated and treated early and aggressively, with medications for 12-year-olds and surgery for those 13-year-olds who qualify, according to new guidelines released Monday, Jan. 9 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  2023. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December 2022 found that Wegovy helped adolescents reduce their BMI by an average of about 16%, better than results in adults.  (Novo Nordisk via AP)
Syringe boxes containing single-dose injections of the diet drug semaglutide, labeled Wegovy (Photo: Novo Nordisk via AP)

The manufacturer is wary of telling us exactly when it will be available, as it previously promised that supply would return to normal and that is not the case, it said.

He added: It was quite evident a few months ago that this product was in high demand and this situation has already been going on in the US for two years. You would have thought they would have anticipated the shortage sooner.

Supply issues have led Novo Nordisk to indefinitely delay the UK launch of another Wegovy semaglutide drug that has been licensed for weight loss treatment.

In May, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended the drug be used to treat adults with a body mass index of at least 35 and a weight-related health condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Earlier this month, Rishi Sunak announced a $40 million pilot scheme to expand access to Wegovy beyond specialist weight management services, which are usually based in hospitals, allowing doctors to prescribe the drug.

Pharmacists initially expected to start receiving their supply of Wegovy in May.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: There are some ongoing supply issues with Ozempic and we are working closely with partners to support the NHS in managing this issue so that diabetic patients can access the medications they need.

We have provided guidance to prescribers and pharmacists that medicines licensed solely for the treatment of type 2 diabetes such as Ozempic should not be routinely prescribed for weight loss. It should only be prescribed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

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Image Source : inews.co.uk

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