Last Updated: Jun 01, 2023

Type 2 diabetes medications are becoming increasingly popular due to weight loss. The demand for semaglutide (the generic version of the brand names Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus) has increased over the last year according to Novo Nordisk in Denmark. People who are not diabetic and want to lose weight have driven the increasing demand for drugs. New York-based plastic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Levine has reported that Ozempic’s demand has increased by a lot in the past six months compared with a year ago. Many people have been asking about the drug’s effectiveness in shedding extra weight.

Central Park Endocrinology’s Dr. Gregory Dodell said that Ozempic has been receiving more inquiries from his patients. He has often prescribed the drug to Type 2 diabetic patients. However, he is not confident about prescribing the drug for weight loss. Dr. Gregory Dodell claimed that the drug works as long as people take it. However, once they stop taking the medication they will gain approximately two-thirds of what they had lost. People must either stop using the medication or keep it up.

The report states that demand has increased rapidly and the company has seen intermittent disruptions to the supply of Ozempic. It is likely to continue until mid-March. Officials at the company claim that the shortage resulted from the huge demand coupled with global supply restrictions. The US Food and Drug Administration reported that while 1 and 2 mg of Ozempic dosages are still available, an Ozempic pen with 0.25 mg and 0,5 mg doses is currently out of stock. The FDA also cited increasing demand as the reason for the supply shortage.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Wegovy in 2021 which delivers a higher dose of semaglutide as compared to other brands for treating chronic weight management in adults who suffer from obesity.  The company has said that the company has taken noteworthy measures to make sure a sufficient supply of the drug in the United States this year. Initially, when Wegovy became hard to find, many patients who were dependent on the drug for losing weight opted for Ozempic. It resulted in constrained supplies of the medication that is used to treat diabetes.

Dr. Dodell has said that last year the shortage of the drug was so serious that he started giving out Ozempic samples to patients who were not able to get their regular courses of the treatment. There were times when Ozempic samples were hard to get, said the experts. Although Ozempic has been approved by the FDA to cure Type 2 diabetes, the drug has not been authorized for chronic weight management. Nevertheless, doctors can recommend a sanctioned drug for an unapproved use. When doctors do so, it is known as off-label use.

The officials have said that though the company identifies that some doctors might be prescribing Ozempic for patients who want to shed some extra pounds, Novo Nordisk does not endorse, recommend or motivate off-label use of the drug.  As per the data obtained by the company itself, sales of Novo Nordisk’s diabetes treatment shot up by 56 percent in 2022, while its obesity care sales increased by 101 percent in the same year.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that more than 30 million, or 1 in 10 people in the US suffer from Type 2 diabetes. Ozempic is prevalent among patients who deal with Type 2 diabetes as it is more efficient and said to be safer as compared to other treatments such as insulin. However, the drug has become quite popular for its effect on people’s appetites.

The senior vice president of Northwell Health’s Medicine Service Line and chairperson of its two top hospitals, Dr. Said Ibrahim has said that one of the inadvertent side effects of this drug is that it works as an appetite suppressant and the drug slows down the gut, therefore, people feel fuller. The medicine sends a sign to the brain and triggers a feeling of being fuller. Ibrahim has also seen an upsurge in doctors advising Ozempic for off-label usage such as weight loss treatment.

Usually, the drug is covered by medical insurance only when it is advised as specified for people who suffer from Type 2 diabetes, which means patients who are taking the medication to lose weight need to pay for it from their own pockets. Ozempic is priced between $1,000 to $1,200 per month on average. The hype that has been created on social media about the off-label usage of the drug might be responsible for its exorbitant price. For example, Elon Musk as well has recently supported the off-label use of the medication on social media stating that reliance on drugs like Wegovy and Rybelsus, a pill formula of semaglutide, is beneficial for maintaining a lean physique.

However, Dr. Ibrahim is a little worried about fair access to Ozempic. Dr. Ibrahim has said that there are many people who are not overweight, they just require to lose a little weight to stay lean or slim. Although such people can’t have these kinds of medications via insurance, they have enough money to buy them from their own pockets and it might create issues in terms of the supply shortage. He has said that doctors should be cautious in prescribing these drugs to the appropriate people, which will be crucial to maintain sufficient supplies. He has added that just increasing the production of these drugs might not be enough to provide supplies to people who actually need the treatment.