Drug shortages is a global problem affecting many low, middle, and high-income countries, putting recovery and patient care at a huge disadvantage.
While many countries have developed strategies to overcome the problem, it is seemingly accelerating across the world. This is evident from the shortage of Ozempic worldwide.
Ozempic, an injection-based medicine used to help people with type 2 diabetes manage their glucose levels, has been out of stock for six months, arguably as a result of its weight-loss side effects popularised by the social media #Ozempicweightloss.
The hashtag #OzempicWeightLoss has amassed over 360 million views and counting on TikTok, with users documenting their weight loss journey thanks to the Danish pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk-manufactured diabetic drug.
The injectable drug's active ingredient, semaglutide, mimics a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food. As a result, users may feel full, which may reduce appetite and enable people to lose weight by eating less.
The FDA has approved semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic under the brand name Wegovy in 2021 for the chronic management of weight in adults who are obese or overweight and have at least one related condition, such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. But it did not approve the Ozempic drug for weight loss.
@drjencaudle Ozempic for Weight Loss. #ozempic #ozempicweightloss #ozempicjourney #ozempicforweightloss #ozempicshot #ozempicworks #wegovy #wegovyweightloss #wegovyshot #fyp #fypシ #weightloss #weightlossjouney ♬ original sound - DrJenCaudle
The diabetic injectable is sold as a 1.5ml injection pen and ranges in price from R1 200 to R1 500. Depending on how much assistance patients need to control their blood sugar, a weekly dose of between 0.25mg and 2mg is recommended.
According to a statement by The Therapeutic Goods Administration, a worldwide spike in demand has already caused Ozempic shortages in the United States and Australia. The shortages in Australia are expected to continue until the end of March 2023.
As a result, Australian authorities have called on health professionals to stop initiating new prescriptions of Ozempic and to contact diabetic patients affected by the shortage to switch them to alternative treatments.
The joint statement by Therapeutic Goods Administration and Novo Nordisk confirmed a shortage of injectable semaglutide medication, due to the “unexpected increase in consumer demand”.
“The increased demand is due to extensive prescribing for obesity management, for which Ozempic is not indicated. The shortage is significantly affecting people using Ozempic for its approved use for type 2 diabetes.”
“Therefore, we recommend that patients who are prescribed Ozempic should contact their doctor immediately to have their treatment reassessed. We recognise the importance of Ozempic for patients living with diabetes and the other chronic health conditions it is being used to treat, and we are taking this shortage very seriously, the statement read.
The phenomenon of medications being diverted from their intended purposes for use for aesthetic purposes, is not new.
In recent years, several beauty "tricks" using illegal substances or off-label applications have drawn criticism.
According to Euronews, two French academics expressed concern regarding the usage of Homeoplasmine, a medicinal ointment containing boric acid that has been marketed as a moisturising balm, especially for the lips, in a 2017 article in The Conversation.