Type 2 diabetics struggle to get Ozempic as others use it for weight loss

Diabetes drug shortage
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 7:06 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A medication used to treat Type 2 diabetes has been in short supply for months because non-diabetics are using the drug to take advantage of its weight-loss side effect.

The medication, sold under the name Ozempic, is trending on social media after numerous celebrities have admitted they use it to lose weight.

While pointing out it is not a weight-loss drug, Ozempic’s website highlights the weight-loss side effect, saying, “Adults could lose up to 14 pounds on average from the drug.”

The rush to be a part of the trend has left those being treated for Type 2 diabetes empty-handed as pharmacies can’t keep up with the demand.

“I’m on my second month right now of not having any Ozempic and I’ve been calling everywhere trying to find it from somebody, anybody,” said Cindy Harper Ayala, a Type 2 diabetic.

Type 2 diabetics nationwide are scrambling to get hold of Ozempic. Ocie Wilson, pharmacy director at El Rio Community Health said they’re even seeing it in Tucson.

“It’s definitely been difficult. At El Rio Health we definitely have a large population that has diabetes and it has been very difficult to obtain,” Wilson said.

Supply and demand are causing havoc for pharmacies just waiting for the next batch of medication to come through their doors.

“I’ve even called Canada to find out, you know, and at this point, right now I’m looking at going back to Mexico,” Harper Ayala said.

The drug isn’t a necessity for every diabetic. There are alternative medications like Victoza or Trulicity. The problem is, the number of people using the drug for weight loss is “outweighing” the ones who need it to survive.

“Whether it’s for weight loss or other off-label uses, at some point, some of these situations occur where they go from being off-label to being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and then added to the label and then it becomes part of the use and then production changes based on that,” Marvasti said.

Harper Ayala said she struggles to keep up day-to-day because of this shortage.

“There are times when I’m afraid to look at my blood sugars when I do my blood testing because there are times when it’s been in the 200s plus. That’s what scares me because I know what diabetes does to your system,” Harper Ayala said.

Health professionals suggest talking to providers about switching medications.

“I think staying in contact with your provider is most important and not just stopping your medication,” Wilson said.

Because this shortage doesn’t appear to be going away overnight, those taking the drug for weight loss might also want to consider alternatives.

“I would say that making the dietary changes whether you are diabetic or trying to get weight loss, including exercise, but the dietary changes which include adding fiber or taking fiber supplements with food could have the same type of clinical results as the medication without side effects,” Marvasti said.

You need a prescription for the drug, and without insurance, you’re looking at paying close to $1,000 for it.

Monthly blood work and tests are recommended to ensure your body reacts properly.