Jesse Jones

Type 2 diabetes patients struggle to find Ozempic as demand rises for its weight loss properties

Ozempic is a drug that improves blood sugar in adults with Type 2 diabetes, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to find due to its weight loss properties.

KIRO 7′s Jesse Jones talked to Becca DeShaw, a Type 2 diabetic from Seattle, who said the wonder drug increases her body’s insulin production better than ever, but finding it requires a miracle.

“I called five different pharmacies in the area; nobody had any,” DeShaw said. “There is usually a pharmacy here or there, and it changes by the week. Sometimes I know what that pharmacy is; sometimes, I don’t. But it’s a moving target.”

Ozempic is hard to find because it works almost too well with weight loss and has become more popular among users spreading its success through Tik Tok.

Now, so many doctors have prescribed it that there’s a shortage impacting people with type 2 diabetes like DeShaw.

“When somebody is trying to lose weight, I understand the difficulty,” DeShaw said. “I understand the desire. But if you’re taking it in order to lose weight and somebody else can’t get it to live, that’s not kind.”

Dr. Irl Hirsch, a professor at the University of Washington Medicine’s Diabetes Institute, said some patients set their sights on Canada to find the drug.

“Now what’s happened because of the Americans going to British Columbia, now they’re running out of it, and they’re having the problem,” Hirsch said. “So we have created an international problem here.”

But should people be taking Ozempic just to lose weight?

“The short answer is it actually has an FDA approval for that,” Hirsch said. “It’s the same drug, but it’s called Wegovy. It’s just Ozempic at a higher dose. And so there’s no reason why you can’t use that drug to lose weight. But the reality is most insurances won’t cover that drug.”

Some doctors are prescribing Ozempic off-label for weight loss; if no coverage is provided, people are paying up to $1,000 a month for it.

Hirsch said that the company wasn’t prepared for a mass number of people that would that are willing to pay cash for it to lose weight.

According to Hirsch, 80% of people who take Ozempic lose weight.

“For those who do lose weight, the amount of weight loss is extremely variable,” Hirsch said. “We have patients who lose five and 10 pounds. We have patients who lose 40, 50 and 60 pounds. Novo Nordisk, the maker of Ozempic, says some of its larger doses are available. But its smaller ones are currently experiencing intermittent supply disruptions.”

DeShaw needs the production of Ozempic to move quickly because there could be consequences if she doesn’t get it, not just for her but for millions of other diabetes patients.

“It seems to me there ought to be some way of balancing out the needs of the people who do need to lose weight without making me and others like me on the short end of the stick,” DeShaw said.

Ozempic released a statement about using the drug for weight loss:

“While we recognize that some healthcare providers may be prescribing Ozempic® for patients whose goal is to lose weight, Novo Nordisk does not promote, suggest, or encourage off-label use of our medicines and is committed to fully complying with all applicable US laws and regulations in the promotion of our products,” the company said.

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