November 28, 2023

Ozempic, a semaglutide known to lower blood A1C for patients living with diabetes, is listed as “in shortage” by the FDA.

MINNEAPOLIS — For years, people have searched for a magic bullet to help them drop unwanted pounds. Now, some say they’ve found it in the form of a pricey diabetes drug.

However, this trend started through TikTok is keeping this drug from patients who really need it.

The drug in question is Ozempic. Ozempic is an injectable semaglutide that helps lower blood A1C, and despite the company specifically stating it is not for weight loss, people have been using it as such.

Type in #ozempic into TikTok and the results are plenty. TikTok users are showing off their weight loss journey, and candidly discussing their personal experiences while being on the drug. Some even do Q&A’s and share before-and-after pictures. 

“There’s a lot of weight loss associated with Ozempic and its other brand name Wegovy,” Dr. David Margraf said. “And so people are seeking it out, from the demand side driving up the shortage.”

Currently, both Ozempic and Wegovy are listed as “in shortage” by the FDA. 

Margraf, who is a University of Minnesota pharmaceutical research scientist, said on top of people seeking out Ozempic, Wegovy — the drug originally created to combat obesity — has also been facing supply issues.

“Due to the shortage of Wegovy, people have resorted to getting a prescription for Ozempic, which is the same molecule,” Margraf explained. “However, it has a different FDA indication, so people are prescribed Ozempic off-label.”

And off-label prescribing isn’t illegal. It’s actually a mundane practice, especially in oncology, according to Margraf. However, it’s a practice that doesn’t come without consequences.

“We have patients with type 2 diabetes who can’t get Ozempic because of the off-label prescribing for weight management,” he said. 

Margraf said he doesn’t foresee these “trends” dying down anytime soon.

“This could be a fad driven by the new year, however, I feel like this will continue on,” he said. “Weight loss is always an issue regardless of the time of year.”

If you think a weight loss drug is something you need, Margraf recommended the best way to go about it is to talk to a physician.

“No drug is without a side effect, so patients and prescribers need to keep this in mind, that there are side effects with this drug and any other,” he said. “So I think active conversations with health care professionals is really important.”

There are also a good number of “online pharmacies” that claim they can prescribe Ozempic or Wegovy online. Dr. Margraf warned to proceed with caution.

The FDA does keep track of fraudulent pharmaceutical websites. You can find that list here.

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