As weight-loss patients and people with type 2 diabetes compete for two popular drugs that are in short supply, federal Health Minister Mark Butler has acknowledged it is a “very challenging” situation.
- The government says it’s working to improve access
- Weight-loss patients may not have prescriptions of Ozempic and Trulicity filled
- There’s no solution in sight for a global shortage of the drugs
Mr Butler’s spokesperson said after a sudden spike in demand caused by a global shortage of Ozempic and Trulicity, the government was working to improve access.
People with type 2 diabetes who usually use the weekly injectables have faced patchy supply for months, with pharmacists now saying their fridges are bare.
The shortage has been driven by off-label usage of Ozempic for the management of obesity, the minister’s spokesperson confirmed.
That, in turn, has caused shortages in the only other similar drug approved for use in Australia, Trulicity.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved supply of overseas alternatives for both medicines to reduce impact, according to the minister.
The TGA has been working with drug makers to constrain stock and has encouraged prescribers to prioritise patients with type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes patients to be prioritised
Hunter GP Association secretary Lee Fong said it was a real worry that patients with type 2 diabetes were unable get their hands on important medications, such as Ozempic or Trulicity.
For many diabetics, these medicines have been a game changer, managing blood sugar levels with a weekly injection.
“Of course, it would be great if there was enough of these medications to treat everyone.
“But until that happens we support the position of the TGA, which is that the prescribing and dispensing of Ozempic should be prioritised for diabetics.”
Dr Fong said that patients who wanted a prescription filled for the drugs but did not have type 2 diabetes, should be prepared for their chemist not to give it to them.
“Instead, they should have a conversation with their GP about other options,” he said.
Diabetes professionals say they are “gobsmacked” the shortage has been allowed to happen.
People living with type 2 diabetes have told the ABC how they have become unwell, and have been forced back to an insulin regime, which requires blood sugar testing, and as many as four injections a day.
In a statement to the ABC, the Australian Diabetes Society said it was out of the government’s control to protect supply when there was a global shortage.
Chief executive Sof Andrikopoulos quoted Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data that showed a spike in use both from prescriptions for people with type 2 diabetes, and patients trying to lose weight.
“It’s a very good class of drug. Everyone’s using it, and we’ve run out,” Mr Andrikopolous said.
He said for diabetics, it was the first time there had been a class of drug that was quite effective, easy to use, and preferred by patients.