UK Ozempic Shortage: Diabetes Drug’s Weight Loss Impact


Patients, charities and health officials have called on prescribers to stop dispensing a diabetes drug for weight loss amid a nationwide shortage for those who need it most.

Ozempic, which contains the active ingredient semaglutide, is approved for blood sugar management in people with type 2 diabetes. However, it quickly became famous as a celebrity slimming shot, with online pharmacies prescribing it” off-label” for those looking to lose weight.

But the rush for Ozempic and similar drugs as weight-loss drugs has contributed to a shortfall for people with diabetes, with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) saying the supply of these drugs is unlikely to return to normal. at least until mid-2024.

The DHSC said it strongly discourages such off-label prescribing, which is legal and done at the discretion of the prescriber.

“The guidelines make it clear that these drugs should only be prescribed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, to protect the supply of diabetic patients,” he said.

He warned shortages of these drugs can have serious clinical implications for patients with type 2 diabetes, and told doctors not to start new patients on drugs such as Ozempic.

Today, experts and patients are calling for an end to off-label prescriptions of Ozempic and similar medicines licensed for type 2 diabetes.

“We understand that off-label prescribing can be beneficial in certain circumstances, but we cannot support it when it directly contributes to the continued shortages of people with type 2 diabetes and the impact this has on good management. of it,” said Douglas Twenefour, head of care at Diabetes UK.

He added: “These shortages have serious clinical implications in the management of people with type 2 diabetes, on both physical and mental well-being, and existing stock should be retained for use.”

A recent Guardian Survey revealed that some online pharmacies ship Ozempic prescriptions for people of a healthy weight hoping to lose weight.

People with type 2 diabetes have told the Guardian that the shortages are having a profound impact on their lives.

Michele Smith, 62, of Bedford, has been struggling to get her Ozempic prescription filled for the past six months.

The senior communications officer has been taking the drug for four years. “It’s been brilliant at lowering my blood sugar and my weight,” Smith said, adding that the latter was a side effect. “I had taken insulin before, but I didn’t like it with all the related issues, like low blood sugar.”

But recent shortages have prompted Smith “to call pharmacies, pleading: do you have one, don’t let go, put my name on it!”

The shortage also meant Smith was up to five days late with his weekly dose. “It’s not ideal to mess around like that,” she says. “They should really prioritize people who take it for what it is intended for unless they are able to do more and make sure those who get it on the NHS don’t miss out. not.

Tanya, 59, a social services officer, has had type 2 diabetes for about 10 years and, before being prescribed Ozempic last August, had extremely high blood sugar.

However, she has also had difficulty getting her prescriptions, which leaves her worried about having to switch to insulin, which has a number of downsides.

“I understand people want to lose weight, we all want to lose weight,” she said. “But I just think, oh my God, for me as a diabetic, it’s something that really, really helps me, [and] I feel a little aggrieved.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, president of the Royal College of GPs, said semaglutide should not be seen as a “miracle drug” for weight loss.

“Its growing popularity for personal use, whether acquired through ‘unlicensed’ online pharmacies with minimal checks and balances, or from dubious online sources without a prescription at all, is troubling,” he said. she declared. “This can pose a real threat to patient safety if drugs are not used for what they are authorized for – and potentially contributes to supply shortages. It is also concerning that in some cases people are not buying what they think they are, which is really dangerous.

Those looking to slim down have also been caught up in drug shortages. Not only are stocks of drugs such as Ozempic for off-label prescriptions limited, but similar drugs licensed for weight loss, including a brand of liraglutide called Saxenda, are in short supply. Wegovy – the brand name of semaglutide licensed for weight loss – is not yet available in the UK.

On Wednesday it was announced Ozempic and Saxenda will be reviewed in the UK after reports of suicidal thoughts or self-harm in patients.

This article is originally published on


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