Experts say Ozempic’s link to weight loss driving national shortage

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Ozempic is a drug people with type 2 diabetes use to help regulate blood sugar and manage cardiovascular disease. But now, it’s become known for something else that has it flying off pharmacy shelves, and some say, into the wrong hands.

Experts say that’s thanks to the drug’s link to weight loss, making Ozempic appealing to more than just its intended users.

“I go through maybe five, six, sometimes even 10 Ozempics a week, sometimes more than that,” said Neal Hollis, a pharmacist and the owner of Georgetown Drug Co.

Since gaining FDA approval in 2017, the diabetes treatment has proven to be an important tool in lowering patients’ A1C and risk of serious complications related to the disease.

“There’s so many diabetics that are being moved to Ozempic because of the great results it’s having,” Hollis said. “It’s great for type 2, it helps them basically create more insulin for the body to make their blood sugar lower, as well as decrease A1C and it helps against cardiovascular disease.”

Now, people with diabetes aren’t the only ones eyeing Ozempic, thanks to the drug’s link to weight loss.

“It’s not indicated for weight loss, but those type 2 diabetics that are on Ozempic have seen maybe an average of 14 pounds that they lose off of that,” said Hollis.

But, its ability to help users shed pounds fast is now making it harder for those who depend on the drug to find it at all.

“The demand has increased so much mainly because there are celebrities who have talked about it on mainstream media and they have increased the idea that this could be used for weight loss which is not an actual indication of Ozempic,” said Kyler Gator Hazelett, PGY2 Ambulatory Care Pharmacist at St. Joseph’s Candler.

The high demand has left some patients without the drug — leading to some concerning outcomes.

“What we’re seeing is if patients are not able to get the Ozempic that their A1C values are starting to spike back up and their blood sugars are no longer being controlled,” said Hazelett.

Drug suppliers say they are working on the shortage and expect it to be resolved by Jan. 31 of this year. In the meantime, area hospitals say they are helping patients who can’t find Ozempic get similar treatments to manage their blood sugar levels.

-Daisy B.

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