Diabetics’ lives are at risk due to Ozempic shortage as demand for weight-loss shots surges

The UK has been hit by a shortage of supply of the Ozempic weight loss miracle jab due to the growing demand from people wanting to lose weight.

The issue is of particular concern to diabetics across the country who say their lives have been put at risk as they are unable to access the drug.

Semaglutide sold under the names Ozempic and Wegovy was initially introduced because it helps people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood glucose levels, but has been touted by celebrities and social media influencers as a weight-loss wonder drug with Boris Johnson revealing last week that he had started taking it.

Frontline pharmacists described the situation as a complete disaster and said they were forced to spend a lot of time researching alternative medicines for diabetic patients.

The drug mimics a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is released after you eat. This makes people feel full, which means they eat less and lose weight. A recent study found that people who were given the drug as part of a weight-loss program saw their weight drop an average of 12% after 68 weeks.

However, while Wegovy is licensed for the treatment of weight loss, its NHS launch has been delayed leaving even more people wanting to lose weight quickly by switching off the label for Ozempic, which is only licensed for type 2 diabetes. As a result , pharmacists were unable to meet primary care physician prescriptions, leaving diabetics at risk.

This was reported by the Danish company Novo Nordisk, which produces both drugs I is experiencing intermittent drug supply constraints due to unprecedented levels of demand.

Elizabeth Urquhart said she was left in the agonizing and stressful situation of having to call dozens of pharmacies every month to try to get a fresh 4-week supply of Ozempic due to shortages (Photo: Provided)

A spokesperson said: We are keenly aware of the uncertainty and concern this is causing and the inconvenience patients and healthcare professionals are experiencing. We recommend that anyone who thinks they could be affected by this talks to their doctor.

We are working closely with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and are doing our best to discourage off-label use of our medicines. We are working together to issue communications on the appropriate use of our medicines for healthcare professionals right now. We do not promote, suggest or encourage off-label use or misuse of any of our medicines.

The MHRA said it was ready to implement regulatory steps to minimize shortages amid concerns that people with diabetes are now struggling to get prescriptions.

Diabetes UK had been assured that patients on repeat prescriptions would not be affected by the supply problems, but the charity said I now he’s worried that’s not the case anymore.

Douglas Twenefour, Care Manager at Diabetes UK, said: We know that due to ongoing global shortages, some people with type 2 diabetes who could benefit from Ozempic are unable to access it. While we were assured this should have little impact on people with type 2 diabetes who already had repeat prescriptions, we are concerned that some are struggling to get these prescriptions.

We are also aware that people without type 2 diabetes take Ozempic via off-label prescription. While we understand that off-label prescribing can be beneficial in some circumstances, we cannot support it when it directly contributes to the ongoing shortages impacting people living with type 2 diabetes, and we encourage clinicians to be aware of this impact.

Twenefour said there are several alternative GLP-1 analogue treatments available for people with type 2 diabetes and that health care teams will contact patients if there is a shortage. Elizabeth Urquhart, who has type 2 diabetes, has called supply problems a matter of life and death.

She was first prescribed Ozempic by doctors at Aintree hospital last September. The 66-year-old former NHS worker from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, was also taking tablets to manage her condition, but in February she fell seriously ill.

I didn’t wake up for a day and a half and my partner found me and called an ambulance. I was rushed to the hospital for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious complication of diabetes that can be life-threatening, from which I nearly died, he said.

I was in a coma for five days which left me with severe brain fog. The cost of this to the NHS would not have been insignificant and will no doubt happen again and again.

The near-fatal accident was caused by a 1 in 1,000 reaction to Forxiga tablets, which prevented her from taking any type of similar drug due to the danger of it recurring. The only suitable diabetes drug left is Ozempic.

Ms Urquhart said: In trying to maintain four weeks’ supply each month, I am faced with the agonizing and stressful routine of calling up to 30 local pharmacies to find someone who actually has some in stock.

When I find a pharmacy that has stock, I have to beg the people on the phone to put some aside for me. It certainly cannot be an acceptable situation.

If I don’t have Ozempic, my blood sugar will go out of control and I will have all kinds of side effects. I may go back to DKA, the complications are just endless. The manufacturing company has told us that the shortage could continue into February, so I’m panicking. I really am. It’s a matter of life and death for me.

The Association of Independent Pharmacies (AIP) has confirmed that shortages are being felt across the country, with some local health boards forced to prescribe alternative medicines to diabetic patients.

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of AIP, described the current situation regarding the supply of Ozempic as a complete disaster.

She said I: There have been many problems with the Ozempic shortage. The single producer struggled to meet demand. It’s causing a lot of problems right now. The drug is popular and well known.

Many people with diabetes find this very difficult. In some areas, I’ve heard that local integrated care committees are moving away from the drug. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done since many other drugs are also in short supply.

It’s a complete mess at the moment. We don’t know when supplies will be stable again. There has been a lot of publicity about demiglutide and its benefits, often involving celebrities. Demand has meant that supply cannot keep up.

He added: I expect the situation to get worse if demand remains high, the fact remains that semaglutide is in high demand in many countries for weight loss and this has an impact on supply for patients with diabetes.

Ms Urquhart said seeing people on social media endorsing the weight-loss drug was hard to take.

I’m not diabetic at all. And there’s me, a diabetic, struggling to get hold of a drug that’s supposed to be only for diabetics. It really bothers me.

Pharmacies give us a list of alternative medicines but the first choice is out of stock and the second is in short supply.

Ms Urquhart wrote to the MHRA this week asking them to implement her named patient supply protocol, where a doctor requests the supply of a medicine direct from the manufacturer to treat an individual patient under the doctor’s direct responsibility. I urge and implore you that this step must be taken quickly, she wrote.

The MHRA said its medicines supply team does not respond directly to questions from members of the public and advised Ms Urquhart to contact the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Health officials said they have established processes for handling supply issues and are working with the supplier to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

Dr Laura Squire, MHRA Chief Officer for Healthcare, Quality and Access, said: We are supporting DHSC’s work to ensure patients can access type II diabetes treatments containing semaglutide or other clinically suitable alternatives.

In the event of a potential shortage of supply of a medical product that could pose a risk to public health, we are prepared to use our regulatory processes to minimize those risks where appropriate. Each situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the most suitable action.

If specific regulatory measures are needed to support the work of DHSC, we will implement them promptly. Ensuring access to the medicines you take is our top priority.

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Image Source : inews.co.uk

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