High demand for diabetes drug helps treat other illnesses, leads to shortage

The drug also helps individuals with cardiovascular disease and doctors have discovered that Ozempic also helps with weight loss.
Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 5:47 PM CST
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GLASGOW, Ky. (WBKO) - The United States is experiencing a number of shortages in medical supplies and medicines. A drug used to treat diabetes is perhaps among the greatest shortage.

According to Kentucky Health News, the number of people living with diabetes in Kentucky has increased by 28 percent since 2011. Meanwhile, the FDA approved Ozempic as a treatment for Type II Diabetes.

“It is also FDA-approved for some individuals with cardiovascular risk factors that meet certain criteria,” said Dr. Erica Gillette, MD, T.J. Samson Family Center.

The benefits of the drug don’t stop there. Kentucky adults have the second-highest obesity rate in the nation. Doctors have discovered that Ozempic also helps with weight loss, and they are able to safely prescribe the drug off-label for people who meet the obesity criteria.

“It cycles because with more weight loss comes better diabetes control, with better diabetes control comes more weight loss,” said Dr. Kristina Wright-Gue, DO, T.J. Samson Family Center.

The multiple uses for the drug have led to a critical shortage.

“So, it was released with the idea of-- here’s a great diabetes drug. Oh, wait it now works for heart failure. Oh, wait, now it’s working for obesity. So you’ve tripled its indication, but you haven’t been able to triple its production,” explained Wright-Gue.

A lot of the narrative for the shortage is that it’s being used for irresponsible weight loss. However, doctors with T.J. Regional Health say this factor isn’t the sole reason for the shortage.

“I would say inappropriate use is probably another reason, although I don’t think that that is as bad as people see that if they don’t understand that it is multifactorial,” said Gillette.

Officials add that bottom line is that the extreme demand has caused the shortage due to its multifunctional use, coupled with supply chain issues stemming from Covid. All that and more attribute to an abundance of shortages all around.

“We have shortages of saline flushes that we use for IVs. We’re having a shortage of liquid Tylenol to give to our pediatric patients. We’re having a shortage of amoxicillin,” said Wright-Gue. “Using it for vanity weight loss, creating a shortage by itself? Absolutely not. Is it contributing? Sure, because we already had supply chain issues that were caused and exacerbated by COVID, we had workforce lapses, we had materials that couldn’t be gotten.”

Doctors at T.J. Samson say that patients prescribed Ozempic should let their pharmacist know when they get down to a week’s supply, so the pharmacist can potentially be prepared for the refill.