Popular diet and diabetes drugs in short supply as demand surges

Some patients are now searching to find pharmacies that can fill their prescription, or going without.
The injectable drug Ozempic
Posted at 6:59 PM, Jun 03, 2024

Weight loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Zepbound continue to be in short supply.

The weekly semaglutide or tirzepatide injectables for diabetes and weight loss are often hailed by patients for the major difference they can make.

“I was hardly mobile, I wanted to sleep all the time, I wanted to eat all the time, I didn’t want to go anywhere, it just hurt to move. I’ve gotten a second chance at life, and I’m not going to mess it up," Ozempic patient Jacque Long said.

Some patients are now searching to find pharmacies that can fill their prescription, or going without. Since the drugs are still so new, we don’t have much long-term research yet what that impact could be. But doctors do know when patients suddenly stop or try to restart higher doses after a break, it can cause even more struggles.

Dr. Frank Chae says patients should be weaned off these types of drugs — and if not, it can be dangerous.

“It's not like you can stop your therapeutic dose, and then go back to it a week or two later. The dire consequences are increased side effects, GI upsets like nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation that can actually increase if this is stopped abruptly,” said Dr. Chae.

A dose of Ozempic on top of a box.


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Blood sugar spikes and intense carb cravings can come too, he says. He adds that when patients go back on, they should start with the smallest dose again.

Health care company Ro recently launched a public crowd-sourced shortage tracker to help patients. The company says they also share the patient-reported shortages to the FDA.

Chae says some patients could discuss with their doctor off-label use of other medications, like liraglutide injections (such as Trulicity, for example), depending on their preexisting conditions.

Patients may also consider trying compounded semaglutide. Compounded drugs are made to order in local pharmacies, but Chae says be wary of them: Because of their bespoke nature, the drugs' safety isn’t regulated by the FDA.

“The state of Mississippi, North Carolina and West Virginia have banned these compounded drugs,” he said.

The bottom line is, if you may suddenly stop taking one of these drugs, talk to your health provider first.