People with diabetes struggle to find Ozempic as it grows in popularity as a weight loss aid

Tammy Rachel Largent-Phillips, 52, has type 2 diabetes. For the past two years, I’ve managed the condition with a drug called Ozempic, which helps diabetics control their blood sugar levels.

But in November, she had to switch to another medication, insulin. The Ozempic you need is no longer available in her pharmacy.

In recent months, the demand for the drug has soared, which has collided with global supply issues. Together, this resulted in a Ozempic deficiency.

But the popularity of Ozempic, or semaglutide, is not due to its high incidence of diabetes. Rather, it is because Weight loss benefitsDoctors say. At a higher dose, semaglutide is used for weight loss. The manufacturer of Ozempic Novo Nordisk sells this higher dose under a different brand name: wedges.

Wegovy shortage, Also very popularwidely last year. As a result, some people who took Wegovy were prescribed the off-label drug Ozempic for weight loss. This causes problems for people like Largent-Phillips, who need medication to manage their chronic disease.

“It was very frustrating,” Largent Phillips of Florida said of the shortage, adding that her blood sugar levels were so fluctuating that she had to change medications.

In people with type 2 diabetes, the body does not use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that tells cells in the body to absorb glucose, or sugar, from the blood. If the body does not use it well, this sugar stays in the blood, causing blood sugar levels to rise.

Ozempic works by mimicking a hormone in the body that regulates insulin levels. It’s a type of medicine called a GLP-1 agonist. The medication is self-administered weekly as an injection.

Without medication, people with type 2 diabetes experience spikes in blood sugar that can occur It may lead to serious health problemsincluding heart disease, kidney disease, hearing loss, and stroke.

“Even in the short term, people can feel weak from high blood glucose levels,” said Dr. Robert Gabay, chief scientist for the American Diabetes Association.

the Shortage of supplies Of Ozempic meant some patients had to go to many pharmacies before they could find the drug, said Dr. Marcio Grebeler, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. In other cases, he said, patients were forced to take a lower dose because all was available.

This isn’t “ideal,” Gribler said, because patients may not respond the same way they did on a higher dose.

For those who can’t find medication at all, the only option is to switch to another medication, which may not be as effective, said Dr. Susan Spratt, an endocrinologist and senior medical director for Duke Health’s Office of Population Health Management in the North. Carolina.

That’s what Shane Anthony, 57, of Seattle, had to do. He has type 2 diabetes and has not been able to get Ozempic since October.

Anthony prescribed a different medication, but he said it wasn’t quite as effective. His wife, Jerlene, a nurse practitioner, said his blood sugar levels have rebounded since he came off Ozempic.

“It makes me really angry,” Anthony said. “We need it to survive and keep functioning on a daily basis.”

Switching to another medication also complicates matters when Ozempic becomes available again.

Returning to Ozempic isn’t always a simple adjustment, Spratt said; Because it can be accompanied by side effects, such as nausea or vomiting, patients are often prescribed a lower dose that is increased gradually over several weeks.

She said, “In order to get back on medication, you have to start over, and that’s really stressful.”

Dr. Disha Narang, an endocrinologist at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital in Illinois, said she sees patients “every day” who were taking Ozempic and later found out their pharmacy no longer carried the drug.

She said some patients have had luck finding samples in doctors’ offices.

Others, she said, stopped taking medications altogether, which sent their blood sugar levels soaring.

She added that the shortage has been tough on both patients and doctors.

“We don’t necessarily have control over the supply chain,” she said, adding that doctors act as a kind of middleman between patients and the medicines they need.

Novo Nordisk, which makes both Ozempic and Wegovy, told NBC News that availability of Ozempic has improved, but supply issues remain.

Ozempic is currently available in certain doses for type 2 diabetes, Allison Schneider, a company spokeswoman, said in a statement. However, the company still has supply issues that will continue through the month, and patients in some areas of the US will experience delays in getting their medication.

“Anyone concerned about continuity of treatment should contact their healthcare provider,” she said.

Largent-Phillips, of Florida — who has been documenting her experience on TikTok — said that for now, she has to be vigilant about monitoring her blood sugar levels.

She said she doesn’t blame the people who use it for weight loss for the deficiency, but the manufacturer and the supply chain.

She indicated that there are many people besides her who need this medicine to control their diseases.

“This is awful,” she said.

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