Ozempic is a medication for adults with type 2 diabetes and when combined with diet and exercise, it can help improve blood sugar levels.
Although it’s not for weight loss, it can help people shed the kilos too.
But while it’s helping some people lose weight, so many people have now been prescribed the drug for dieting that there’s not enough Ozempic to go around.
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It means some people with type 2 diabetes, who desperately need the medication, are unable to get their hands on it.
“It concerns me that I can’t get the medication I need,” Anna Buxton told A Current Affair.
“I went to the chemist last week to get my monthly dose of Ozempic and they … said it wasn’t available and that they were limited in allowing only three prescriptions per day.”
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Buxton has multiple sclerosis (MS) and in August last year, the disability pensioner was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
She was prescribed Ozempic, which she said for her was a “life-saver”.
“Since October last year I’ve lost 30 kilos,” Buxton said.
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She said it’s helped her avoid the complications of diabetes, but now she’s been told not to expect her next dose until at least June.
Truck driver David Angelo is required to take Ozempic once a week to control his diabetes.
“I haven’t been able to get it for the last two and a half weeks,” Angelo said.
His specialist said he should be fine for six weeks, but Angelo is worried if he doesn’t get hold of the medication in the next two and a half weeks, he could lose his job.
“If I can’t control my diabetes, it means they’ll take my licence off me,” Angelo said.
Ozempic is self-administered weekly.
It was listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in July 2020, meaning around 40,000 people living with type 2 diabetes pay around $130 per month.
For some, it bridges the gap between exercise and expensive surgery, but the Therapeutic Goods Administration has not approved Ozempic for weight loss.
Endocrinologist and CEO of the Australian Diabetes Society, Dr Sof Andrikopoulos, said there can be side effects people should be aware of.
“So the main side effects of the drug are gastrointestinal, so constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting are the major side effects of the drug,” Andrikopoulos said.
“There is (also) a small increase in your heart rate by about two or three beats per minute.”
Andrikopoulos said he’s concerned Ozempic is being handed out like candy.
“There is a clear warning for pregnancy, for women in the childbearing ages, that this drug should be discontinued, that women should be on contraception taking this drug because we actually don’t know what the side effects are going to be for a newborn baby,” Andrikopoulos said.
The company that produces and distributes Ozempic, Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals, told A Current Affair it’s experiencing a significant increase in the demand for the drug in Australia and around the globe.
It said deliveries of Ozempic to Australia this year have significantly exceeded those originally planned and as increasing supply takes time, there may be intermittent availability at pharmacies.
Like Buxton and Angelo, Yvonne Appleby is worried about her health too.
She’s tried to get her weight and her diabetes under control for 11 years, but feels Ozempic is the only thing that’s worked.
“It has taken me down from a size 18 to a size 14 in my clothes, it’s lowering my blood glucose levels,” Appleby said.
Appleby has a stern message for Ozempic users.
“We’re not using it for cosmetic reasons, we’re using it as a life-saving treatment because type 2 is chronic and progressive and we need to be able to have this treatment,” she said.
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