At the end of last year, the State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet) determined that in nearly 38 percent of cases, the drug, Ozempic, had been prescribed for off-label use, meaning to an individual who had not been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
In the bulk of theses cases, their issue was being overweight or perceptions thereof.
State Agency of Medicines Director General Katrin Kiisk told AK that: “The prescription of Ozempic is not limited to any medical specialty, and really all medical specialists and their representatives can prescribe the drug.”
“In most cases, there are no restrictions on prescription, but there may be situations where, for example, when being placed on the discounted drugs list, the stipulation is that certain, defined specialties can prescribe it.”
Doctor Ülle Jakovlev, chief endocrinologist at the East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITKH), said that Ozempic started to become scarce in the autumn.
Ozempic is sold in three different volumes; the dosage is gradually increased when used to treat type 2 diabetes.
Jakovlev said: “The starting dose comprises the initial treatment, a median dose and the higher dose, while the higher the dosage, the more it affects weight; it is precisely due to this high dose of semaglutide, the active ingredient of Ozempic, that the high dose is not sub-divided.”
In addition to endocrinologists and family doctors, others to have prescribed Ozempic include an opthalmologist, an orthodontist who was treating tooth discoloration and even a pathologist, AK reported.
Indeed, Ozempic prescriptions have even been issued by beauty parlors.
Mari Laasma, who owns one such business, said that the drug was offered to clients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more (classified as obese), as part of a packaged which includes laser treatment.
These clients: “Are mostly middle-aged ladies, who have been having difficulty losing weight,” Laasma told AK.
The Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) covers part of the cost of diabetes treatment, and Ozempic is prescribed if other drugs have failed to work.
The Health Insurance Fund also sets a BMI minimum for issuing the drug, now at 30 whereas it had been 35 until this year, AK reported.
The State Agency of Medicines also banned the import of Ozempic at the end of last year, as delivery difficulties had been encountered in close to 20 countries, AK reported, due mainly to the high demand and concerns that this demand mainly related to weight loss treatments, Katrin Kiisk said.
Ülle Jakovlev said that while Ozempic can indeed be used to treat obesity, the required dose would be considerably higher than that issued to diabetics, adding a doses of that level or not on sale in Estonia.
Jakovlev said weight loss in that case could be between 10 and 20kg (around 20 to 44 pounds).
Ozempic’s weight loss side effects was discovered last year.
Ozempic is one of the brand names Semaglutide is sold under; it is an antidiabetic medication used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, first developed by Novo Nordisk in 2012.