ROCHESTER, N.Y. — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 million Americans live with type 2 diabetes. And with the New Year, goals to lose weight have caused a shortage for a certain diabetes drug.
Ozempic, a diabetes drug that can help people lose weight, is facing shortages.
“It's designed for people with diabetes to help lower their blood sugars, is helping them prevent complications which can involve your eyes, your kidneys, circulation, and again, your risk for heart attack and stroke,” certified diabetes nurse educator Sally Nordquist said.
It is becoming harder to find due to its celebrity and social-media hype, being featured in videos with over 313 million views on platforms such as TikTok.
“It's being used by people who don't have that diagnosis, you're just taking away the supply to people who need it for their own health,” Nordquist said. “And I'm not minimizing weight loss, but when you've got diabetes, you have other conditions that go along with it. So you're taking away what's working for them.”
This is leaving many to other alternatives either not covered by their insurance or also out of stock.
“If you then don't have the medication available, then you have to figure out which one is available,” endocrinologist Dr. Susanne Miedlich said. “Then you need to order that if you have very motivated patients, they actually go to different pharmacies and sometimes you can get lucky that way, but you're adding a lot to the table of a patient. And if they have diabetes, if they don't get the medication, of course they're going to have high sugar limits, to say the least.”
Although the drug itself may not cause harm, its supply does.
“I don't see that that was necessarily harmful to patients taking it,” Dr. Miedlich said. “But I think it's as usual, it's hitting the wrong people if there is a shortage because they cannot defend themselves. It becomes this kind of designer drug or wellness drug.”
It’s leaving medical professionals to highlight the importance of educating others on getting a proper diagnosis before taking any prescribed medications.
“I think the biggest part is awareness of your own health or what are your risk factors,” Nordquist said. “Talk to your family, find out who's got what, and communicate with your primary physician. And if you get diagnosed with a chronic disease, take advantage of the education that's available in the community.”
Monitoring and managing diabetes can be an everyday task, and when properly done, it can save lives.
“I'm at risk for it, and my kids are at risk because their father has diabetes,” Nordquist said. “But it just helps because with my dad, we were able to delay the progression of his kidney disease for eight years, which is huge. And it was only because he changed, he was more aware and he had me to help him. So you can't do it without support.”