A diabetes drug is facing shortages worldwide and causing health concerns as social media users boast its properties as a “wonder” weight loss hack.
Produced by the Danish company Novo Nordisk, Ozempic is an injectable drug that regulates blood sugar levels and insulin. It’s usually prescribed to adults suffering from Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes.
But the drug’s active ingredient, semaglutide, also mimics a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food. Because it makes users feel full faster, it can lead them to lose weight.
As a result, Ozempic has been touted on the Internet as a miracle diet drug. On TikTok, the hashtag #Ozempic already has over 360 million views and counting.
Even Twitter’s new boss, the billionaire Elon Musk, has credited Ozempic – alongside a similar drug, Wegovy – as one of the reasons he shed 13 kg.
On Facebook, groups dedicated to the use of Ozempic for weight loss have tens of thousands of followers.
The global spike in demand has already caused a shortage of Ozempic in Australia that is expected to last until the end of March 2023.
Australian authorities have called on health professionals to stop initiating new prescriptions of Ozempic and to contact diabetic patients affected by the shortage to switch them to alternative treatments.
France’s national drug safety agency issued similar instructions in September when it urged doctors to only initiate new GLP-1 drug prescriptions for patients with Type 2 diabetes with a history of stroke or heart disease.
Authorities in the UK and Australia have also issued warnings to influencers promoting these drugs online. In France, pharmaceutical advertising to the general public is a highly regulated practice, which requires prior authorisation and is reserved for medicines that are not reimbursed by the public health insurance system.
In an emailed statement, Novo Nordisk said it was taking the shortages seriously and had invested $1.6 billion (€1.5 billion) in 2022 alone to expand its production capacity. The company’s global manufacturing facilities are operating 24/7 to catch up with “stronger than anticipated” demand, it said.
“We are committed to working closely with authorities in affected markets to minimise the impact on patients and we are doing everything we can to be able to meet demand as fast as possible”.
What are the health risks?
The shortage has consequences not only for patients with diabetes who need to follow …….